11 Mar 2018

The Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants Guidance Report

The Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants Guidance Report

We now have a number of EEF guidance reports, but the very first one published, back in 2015, was ‘Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants’ and we have chosen this guidance report as the focus for our next Research Roadshow.

The evidence around Teaching Assistants is complex and nuanced. The EEF’s own Teaching and Learning Toolkit explains that teaching assistants have ‘low impact for high cost, based on limited evidence.’ This is an easy headline to read and conclude that we do not need teaching assistants, and that money can be best spent elsewhere. And it’s a lot of money – according to the guidance report, “schools now spend approximately £4.4 billion each year on TAs, corresponding to 13% of the education budget.” – but this is always why we should read the summaries and not just the headlines. Yes, in some contexts, there is no impact of teaching assistants, but in particular circumstances the effect is significant. For example, look at the detail of the evaluation summary and we find that “research which focuses on teaching assistants who provide one to one or small group support shows a stronger positive benefit of between three and five additional months on average.”

TAsIn understanding that there are certain factors which are present in those studies which suggest a positive impact of teaching assistants, the Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants guidance report is designed to exemplify those in the recommendations.

The recommendations are as follows:

Recommendations on the use of TAs in everyday classroom contexts:

  • 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

Recommendations on TAs delivering structured interventions out of class

  • Use TAs to deliver high quality one-to-one and small group support using structured interventions
  • Adopt evidence-based interventions to support TAs in their small group and one-to-one instruction

Recommendations on linking learning from work led by teachers and TAs.

  • Ensure explicit connections are made between learning from everyday classroom teaching and structured interventions

As ever with the guidance reports, each recommendation is given more detail and further recommendations. For example, further guidance for Recommendation 1 is:

It might be that the roles of some TAs need to change wholly or in part. This is why a thorough audit of current arrangements is advised to define the point from which each school starts, and the goals of reform.

Not only is this recommendation made, but the tools are provided for this audit. The EEF have a Red Amber Green (RAG) self-assessment guide for schools to use, and there are online tools at Maximising TAs which are free. Because this report has been out for some time, there are other useful resources available, including an online course. See them all here: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/tools/making-best-use-of-teaching-assistants/

Bradford Girls’ Grammar School have used these recommendations in order to develop their use of teaching assistants. We are delighted to announce that we will host our second Research Roadshow there on Wednesday 18th April. In this workshop, you will explore the evidence base and then hear how BGGS have used the materials available, created their own and ensured that their use of teaching assistants is fully informed by the best available evidence. Find out more and sign up here.

About Bradford Research School

Bradford Research School at Dixons Academies works to improve educational outcomes for children within the Bradford Opportunity Area and ensure that all pupils have the same opportunities for success.

We do this by supporting schools to make better use of evidence to inform their teaching, learning and decision making. We develop successful existing local networks and build new ones, offer training and provide personal support in order to bring about long term improvement in the classroom.