Research School Network: Maximising The Impact of Teaching Assistants In Line With Implementation Our ELE and Headteacher at Honeybourne Primary Academy, Dom Davis, writes on the importance of TAs within implementation

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Maximising The Impact of Teaching Assistants In Line With Implementation

Our ELE and Headteacher at Honeybourne Primary Academy, Dom Davis, writes on the importance of TAs within implementation

The following blog relates the work we did at Honeybourne Primary Academy in collaboration with Billesley Research School in creating an implementation plan to address issues identified relating to Teaching Assistant deployment.

Have you ever heard negative statements concerning the impact of Teaching Assistants, such as the below?

Pupils supported by teaching assistants do no better than those who are left alone” (Friedberg, 4 Sept 2009, The Guardian)

Studies have found that those pupils who receive help from teaching assistants make less progress than classmates of similar ability.” (The Daily Mail, 3 June 2013)


In stark contrast to this, the EEF’s new and updated A School’s Guide to Implementation” Guidance Report (2024) actually foregrounds the importance of Teaching Assistants (TAs) as key proponents of Recommendation 1: Adopt the behaviours that drive effective implementation”. An example vignette provided by the EEF (2024, p.8) demonstrates the natural questions of a school’s leadership team ready to integrate their body of TAs into the implementation process, from its inception:

How can they involve teachers, TAs, parents, and pupils to fully understand how TAs currently work across the school and any potential barriers to change?

How can they get everyone on the same page in terms of knowing why they are making these changes, what it will look like, and how they will get there?

How can they implement the changes in such a way that they can keep learning and improving over time?

To corroborate, the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit” (2021) states that TAs can, in fact, have an impact measure of +4 months, as shown below:

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EEF, “Teaching and Learning Toolkit” (2021)

As always, it’s important to look at the finer details. A key finding of the EEF’s research was that teaching assistants can provide a large positive impact on learner outcomes, however, how they are deployed is key.” (EEF, 2021). We know that deployment of TAs varies widely in schools, and the EEF is clear on its position on the functionality of these staff:

Access to high quality teaching is the most important lever schools have to improve outcomes for their pupils. It is particularly important to ensure that when pupils are receiving support from a teaching assistant, this supplements teaching but does not reduce the amount of high-quality interactions they have with their classroom teacher both in and out-of-class.

(EEF)

Additionally, the importance of professional development is noted, particularly when TAs are deployed to deliver structured interventions. The EEF’s Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants” Guidance Report (2021) includes key recommendations for the use of TAs in everyday classroom conditions:

TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource for low attaining pupils.

Use TAs to add value to what teachers do, not replace them.

Use TAs to help pupils develop independent learning skills and manage their own learning.

Ensure TAs are fully prepared for their role in the classroom.


Our Setting

During the implementation of a new curriculum at our school, the monitoring process had indicated that whilst interventions were having a positive impact on pupil outcomes, our Teaching Assistants were not being routinely deployed effectively during lessons. We had identified situations where TAs did not have clear direction regarding what was expected of them, were unclear of intended learning outcomes or did not know the specific learning needs of the pupils they were being asked to support. When talking to staff it was clear that communication between teachers and TAs was varied and there was a lack of clarity of intended impact. We also evidenced examples of over-scaffolding” from both TAs and teachers. Moreover, TAs did not attend weekly professional development meetings alongside teachers and were therefore engaging with limited training opportunities.

Working with colleagues from Billesley Research School, we created an implementation plan to address the issues we had identified. Using the Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants” (MITA) materials (2021), we identified some core components that we would focus on. It was important that we framed these within our continuing work on developing teaching and learning, using our pedagogical framework informed by Evidence Based Education’s Great Teaching Toolkit”.

Core Component 1 – Improve Communication Between Teachers and TAs


We addressed this through the use of teacher and TA agreements. We adapted the MITA format to include direct reference to the domains from the Great Teaching Toolkit”. This enabled practitioners to agree the focus of TAs for classroom-based deployment and it included specific guidance for individual pupils. To further support this approach, we adjusted the working hours of TAs so that they commenced work before the children arrived in lessons. This provided time for a daily 15 minute briefing between teachers and TAs to discuss the lessons for the day, clarify learning intentions, share scaffolding expectations and check that subject knowledge was secure. We provided discussion prompts linked to our T&L framework to inform the briefing sessions. We also used our class profiles that capture the needs of a class along with the agreed specific pedagogical strategies that are implemented to meet these.

Core Component 2 – Provide TAs with High Quality Ongoing Professional Development, Linked To Our T&L Framework


The daily briefings were a key driver for professional development. These are bespoke to the context of the class/​individuals and key subject focus areas for development. Additionally, we provided dedicated professional development time every two weeks for all TAs, focused on aspects such as effective scaffolding, moving from a task completion focus to securing learning and developing independence. TAs are supported, through coaching, to implement these strategies in the classroom.

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Figure 1. TA teaching strategies that encourage and inhibit independent learning("Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants" Guidance Report, EEF, 2019)
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Figure 2. Scaffolding framework for teaching assistant-pupil interactions ("Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants" Guidance Report, EEF, 2019)

Impact

We are still in the first 12 months of the implementation plan so we are yet to see a significant impact on pupil outcomes. However, using Guskey’s critical stages model, we have been able to evaluate the initial impact of the actions taken. Both teachers and TAs are reporting that there is greater clarity around role and expectations and, during lesson visits, it is clear that agreed actions from the teacher/​TA agreements are in place. TAs are positive about the professional development they are now accessing. This approach is enabling them to develop teaching techniques and embed practice in line with recommendations from the EEF’s guidance report on Effective Professional Development” (2021). Pupil voice shows that scaffolding is now helping them develop independence and they are able to identify the level of support they require. This is confirmed through ongoing monitoring. Whilst this is early in the implementation process, we are confident that we will soon see a positive impact on pupil outcomes as a result of our now highly-skilled, informed and precisely deployed TA support body.

References


EEF (2024) A School’s Guide to Implementation (Guidance Report)

EEF (2021) Effective Professional Development (Guidance Report)

EEF (2021) Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants (Guidance Report)

EEF (2021) Maximising the impact of Teaching Assistants, Link:

EEF (2021) Teaching and Learning Toolkit. Link:

Evidence Based Education (no date) Great Teaching Toolkit. Link:

Guskey, T. R. (2000) Evaluating Professional Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

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