Teaching assistants get better results for pupils

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A new report from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) shows that increasing the number of Teaching Assistants in schools improves student attainment.

The research report, written by Dr John Brown and Professor Alma Harris, from the Institute of Education, and commissioned by the TDA, also shows that increases in funding for teaching assistants, more than additional expenditure on any other type of support staff, leads to improvements in student results.

The report suggests that having a teaching assistant in the classroom who can give additional support to pupils who need it, allows the teacher to focus, without distraction, on other students. The report concludes:

  • that increasing the number of TAs is 'strongly associated' with improved student attainment. It shows that schools that have fewer TAs do less well than schools that have a high density of TAs. In short, the larger the number of TAs in a school the more possibility there is of improved student attainment.
  • the results suggest that greater expenditure on teaching assistants, more than additional expenditure on any other type of associate staff, is associated with gains in student attainment.

Further research by the TDA shows that the majority of parents (78 per cent) recognise the positive impact support staff have on pupil learning.

It revealed that the majority of parents (75 per cent) have noticed an increase in the number of job roles in schools over recent years. However, they would like to know more about how these different members of staff in schools help their children (77 per cent).

Graham Holley, Chief Executive at the TDA, said: “We’ve got more support staff than ever before working in schools and they are the unsung heroes of the school workforce. It’s a powerful message that increasing the number of teaching assistants in school has such a positive impact on pupils’ learning.

“But simply increasing spending on teaching assistants isn’t enough to make a difference; schools need to make sure that they are using their support staff effectively – something the TDA is working with schools to achieve. We’re also helping schools to develop frameworks to improve the quality of training for all school staff and to access funding for that training through local authorities.”

Professor Alma Harris, from the Institute of Education, said: “The research shows that teaching assistants can make a difference to pupils’ achievement if they are used effectively to support teaching and learning. The key thing is not just to have more of them in schools but to ensure that they are well deployed in the classroom.”

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