The total number of TAs working in English schools is down for the first time ever – but encouraging signs from the MITA project show how a strategic focus on TAs can unlock their potential.
We occasionally produce papers and articles on related topics or through collaboration with other researchers. Here are our latest outputs.
The classroom experiences of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools – 1976 to 2012. What do data from systematic observation studies reveal about pupils’ educational experiences over time?
Rob Webster, 2015
This paper presents results of an analysis of primary-aged pupils’ educational experiences over a 35 year period. Data drawn from a set of large-scale systematic observation studies, conducted in the UK between 1976 and 2012, are used to describe pupils’ average classroom experiences at six points in time over this period. These data are then used as markers for comparing the experiences of a subset of pupils – those with special educational needs (SEN) – over the same period. Results for the average pupil show an increase over time in the proportion of time spent interacting with teachers and peers. In contrast, relative to these non-SEN pupils, those with SEN have experienced a more moderate increase in the proportion of time spent interacting with the teacher, and almost no change in the amount of time spent interacting with peers and in whole class teaching contexts. The increase in the number of teaching assistants in mainstream primary settings, employed and deployed to assist the learning and inclusion of pupils with SEN, is identified as a key observable influence on the difference between the classroom experiences of pupils with and without SEN over time. This paper additionally defends the use of systematic observation methods, and concludes that the broad, but stable, measures of activity and behaviour, plus the rigorous approach to data collection it provides, are necessary for painting objective, descriptive and retrospective pictures of classroom life that can elude other research techniques.
This paper was short-listed for the 2015 British Educational Research Journal Editors' Choice Award.
The challenges of implementing group work in primary school classrooms and including pupils with special educational needs
Ed Baines, Peter Blatchford and Rob Webster, 2014
Findings from two studies are discussed in relation to the experiences and challenges faced by teachers trying to implement effective group work in schools and classrooms and to reflect on the lessons learnt about how to involve pupils with SEN. The first study reports on UK primary school teachers’ experiences of implementing a year-long intervention designed to improve the effectiveness of pupils’ collaborative group-working in classrooms (the Social Pedagogic Research into Group-work project). The second study (the Making a Statement study) involved systematic observations of 48 pupils with SEN (and comparison pupils) and case studies undertaken in the context of primary school classrooms.