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Teaching assistants 'fail to improve school results' - What do you think?

Discussion in 'Teaching assistants' started by Bobby_Carrot, Jun 2, 2011.

  1. R13

    R13 New commenter

    I've been looking into how it is recommended that pupil premium money should be spent to best help kids standards improve. The Sutton trust shows that teachers think one of the best ideas is to get more assistant support in BUT the Trust also shows research suggesting it makes little or no difference.
    Personally, as Head of a special school, I would say that our assistants make a massive and extremely positive difference to pupil outcomes
     
  2. NQT1986

    NQT1986 Occasional commenter

    I definitely disagree with the comment in that report that class sizes make no difference! A class of 23, rather than one of 37, would make a massive difference to the children's progress.
     
  3. Most TAs are not useless and if they are being incorrectly deployed, whose fault is that?!
     
  4. " providing students with feedback and encouragement produced
    exceptionally effective classroom results with students of all ages
    throughout the UK."
    Which is exactly what I endeavour to do !
    Well trained support staff who are deployed effectively and have good working relationships with their class teachers DO raise standards. Unfortunately not all TAs are adequately trained or used properly by schools which is why we keep seeing reports like this.
     
  5. The report title can be misleading. It is not about the TAs as a group - it is about how they are deployed. Evidence shows that they are not deployed to effective use in some cases. However it would be worth questioning the motivation for this research. I say that because it provides ammunition for people with the purse strings as to why staffing budgets could be cut. Just a thought...
     
  6. I totally agree! The frustrating thing is that the public see the headline only and it reinforces the general opinion that support staff are either trying to be teachers on the cheap, or are well meaning but poorly educated only there to act as crowd control. The government are missing a trick:maybe there are too many support staff currently who do not impact standards, however if they offered proper training and development to those who have shown their positive contribution to raising standards then the benefits could be huge.

    We recently tried somehting new with our year sixes, we assigned a few pupils to each adult working in the class and had 1-1 feedback sessions (conferences) with them at least once a fortnight, to focus on their writing. The aim was to provide positive feedback and encouragement and to enable the pupils to identify strengths and weaknesses and set themselves targets accordingly. It worked brilliantly the pupils loved having some 1-1 time and it was a really positive experience all round. It is simply not possible for my CT to get round the whole class by himself, but with the support of a capable TA it has worked really well. The next stage is for the pupils to get together and 'conference' each other, something I believe this report looks favourably upon. It would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater to use this report as ammuntion for cutting TA jobs. In an ideal world the focus would now be on using support staff to aid teachers in providing more feedback to their pupils; sadly that is not the likely to be the route Mr Gove takes I fear !

    Rant over !
     
  7. I agree totally with what everyone has said which is why I posted the article. I have a large class (well over 30) and my TA is often taken away because she is wanted elsewhere for cover or for other things or supporting a HLTA doing cover who kicks off if there is not TA support rather than working with the class she is supposed to be with soI often find I plan for another adult and then find the other adult is not there (yes it happens but currently more often than I would like) and then find things I have planned to do can be very difficult with only one adult in the room. So her deployment is often out of my control.
    Also guided reading sessions are virtually impossible with such large class sizes on your own and actually it worked better when I borrowed another TA from a different class and then they borrowed my TA so you had 3 adults supporting guided reading, but this has been stopped now too.
    I would like to see extended reasearch that looks as different schools and how they deploy TAs and where they are making a difference and perhaps a report to illustrate this rather than a blanket 'this doesn't work'. I agree with the poster who said this type research is probably a precurser to further cuts :-(
     
  8. What several pieces of research have shown is that the impact of TA support is not on the children they support in class but on the rest of the children who the class teacher is freed up to teach. In other words the TA occupies the strugglers and behavioural problems whilst the CT gets on with the job of teaching the rest. I know many teachers who see nothing wrong with this and use TA support for exactly this purpose.
     
  9. Whilst this may be the case in many schools it is not my experience. I do not work with SEN or pupils with behavioural issues, nor particularly small groups. Having worked with groups of between 8 and 12 pupils daily I would like to think I have made a significant contribution to their progress. You are correct in saying that for many this is the normal and accepted use for a TA, however I believe that there are other, more effective ways of using them.
     
  10. But this is what the report is saying is not effective. The word 'occupy' implies no teaching and simply task completion - how can they ever improve if they are not taught? The lower ability children and behavioural problems have a right to access the teacher's input as much as the rest of the class. If anything, and no disrespect to LSAs, these are the children that are more complex and therefore 'need' the input of the qualified teacher more. In too many cases, the least able are simply palmed off to the LSA and left to it. That is not good practice. There should be an equal amount of teacher input for all abilities but this is not the case.
    Why not have the teacher teaching the lower ability in a guided group and the LSA teaching the other abillity groups more often?
    What makes me suspect, is that we went to the findings and were able to offer a solution that sees LSAs deployed effectively. We were not invited to share in the further research project that took place afterwards. Seemed to me that there was a hidden agenda - my opinion only of course.

     
  11. "Why not have the teacher teaching the lower ability in a guided group
    and the LSA teaching the other abillity groups more often? "
    Why not indeed, It seems so obvious doesn't it ? I suspect that the expectation is that TAs are simply not capable of this role. It's about time that some proper research was conducted to really establish the most effective way of using support staff.
     
  12. This is the way we do it - in guided groups with the teacher and LSA working with all ranges of ability. The LSAs do a great job and feel they make a difference. Crucially, this is reflected in progress data too. The LSAs 'cope' with the role because the teachers plan clear lessons for them to deliver to a group. Their subject knowledge needs are addressed through INSET or courses where applicable.
     
  13. This is also how we work and our results are steadily improving. For this approach to work you definitely need your support staff to have good subject knowledge, unfortunately my experience is that good quality training is hard to come by. I have an academic background, so core subject knowledge isn't a problem for me. However, whenever I have applied for funded training opportunities I am told I do not qualify as I have A levels, yet last time redundancies were threatened I was told that recent training would be a deciding factor.(My A levels didn't count because I took them 20 years ago !) Grr makes me really mad !
     
  14. The planning should be good enough for the LSA to be secure with the concept. It might be different if the child asks a searching question but then this can be addressed through the marking (if the child leaves a comment). Very rare though that this arises.
    As for other training opportunities, surely there are enough staff at your place for them to offer a refresher in a particular area. For example the Literacy leader could deliver a session on sentence construction to the LSAs if there was a common need.
     
  15. I wonder what the report means by "school results" I suspect it means the % of L4 at year six or the % of 5 A-C at GCSE.
    As far as I'm concerned this is only one way to measure progress. The children I often support are never going to be in that bracket. So... the child I supported who progressed from L1 to L3 in year 6 made heaps of progress but still left Primary school as "below average".
     
  16. You are right that we do get some good in house training:we recently had a fantastic literacy INSET day led by Alan Peat. In other subject areas I have learnt on the job to be honest. I have been fortunate to work with some excellent teachers and this is where I have learnt a huge amount.It has to be said that at my school we support staff are not paid for attending training days and I can only attend if my husband is kind enough to take a day off work himself to care for our children. Also most of the on the job training I have done has no formal qualification at the end of it, which means I have nothing to verify what I have done were I to apply for a new job, or face redundancy again.
    You are also quite correct in saying that so long as the planning is good there should be no problem for TAs to deliver. It certainly makes sense to me for the support role to be based within the classroom rotated regularly so that all of the pupils get their fair share of time with the CT.
    I know that I am lucky because my school really values their suppport staff. My frustration stems from the government's lack of knowledge about what support staff actually do and how valuable we are !
     
  17. Sounds like you are an asset to the school. It is a shame that you are not paid for INSET days as you sound like you take advantage of the training available.
     
  18. My frustration stems from the government's lack of knowledge about what support staff actually do and how valuable we are !
    Let's be honest:the government doesn't actually know what teachers do or how vaulable they are either !
     

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