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.
The Effective Deployment of Teaching Assistants (EDTA) Project
The findings from the DISS project made it clear that schools needed to fundamentally rethink the way they used TAs if they are to get better value from them - and help pupils.
To address the practical issues raised by the DISS project, we conducted the EDTA action research project over the 2010/11 school year. The project, funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, enabled us to work with schools and pairs of teachers and TAs to develop and evaluate alternative ways of using TAs that worked for schools and for pupils, and which might reverse the negative impact of TAs.
As a result of participating in the intervention, we found that teachers were more aware of their responsibilities towards lower-attaining pupils and those with SEN, and worked more often with these pupils, plus they provided TAs with clearer and more detailed lesson plans. There were also improvements in the quality of TAs’ interactions with pupils, and a consequent increase in TAs’ esteem and confidence as a result of having a more clearly defined role in the classroom.
Perhaps the key message for schools is this: changing the way you prepare and deploy TAs is not only possible, but has significant benefits for all school staff and all pupils.
As a result of the project, we published Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants: a book of guidance on the effective deployment of TAs for headteachers and class teachers interested in understanding and improving how they deploy TAs across schools and in classrooms, based on the work and experiences of the schools we worked with. First published in 2013, an updated second edition of the book was published in October 2015.