Seven steps to using teaching assistants effectively

Using TAs well can result in improvement for student outcomes, EEF study finds

When teaching assistants are used correctly and effectively, they can bring about an improvement in pupils’ reading of between three and six months, new research shows.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has today published evaluations of two reading-support programmes run by teaching assistants. The Nuffield Early Language Intervention and Reach projects both involve teaching assistants working with small groups of pupils who are struggling with literacy.

Previous research has shown that the way that teaching assistants are traditionally used in classrooms – for example, as substitute teachers for low-attaining pupils – does not result in improvement to children’s learning.

Using teaching assistants effectively

Jonathan Sharples, who led this research for EEF, said: “The way in which teaching assistants are currently used in schools is generally having very little impact on student outcomes. They possibly even have a negative impact on student outcomes.”

Ten per cent of the education budget – or £4 billion – is currently being spent on teaching assistants.

Dr Sharples argues that using teaching assistants correctly can make the difference between money well-spent and money wasted. “I’ve been working in this area for 10 years now, and I’ve never seen such a consistent and positive effect,” he said. “There’s a clear opportunity to do something better.”

Seven tips for deploying your TA

Here are the EEF’s seven tips to using teaching assistants (TAs) effectively:

  1. TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource for low-attaining pupils.
  2. Use TAs to add value to what teachers do, not to replace them: it is important that they supplement, rather than replace, the teacher.
  3. Use TAs to help pupils develop independent learning skills and to manage their own learning.
  4. Ensure TAs are fully prepared for their role in the classroom: schools should provide sufficient time for TA training and for teachers and TAs to meet outside lesson time.
  5. Use TAs to deliver high-quality one-to-one and small-group support, using structured interventions.
  6. Use interventions with reliable evidence of effectiveness. These sessions are often:
    a. brief (20-50 minutes)
    b. regular (three to five times a week)
    c. sustained (over a period of between eight and 20 weeks)
  7. Ensure explicit connections are made between everyday classroom teaching and structured interventions: interventions should extend work done during whole-class lessons.

Additional resources are available here.

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