TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource for low attaining pupils
The evidence on TA deployment suggests schools have drifted into a situation in which TAs are often used as an informal instructional resource for pupils in most need. This has the effect of separating pupils from the classroom, their teacher and their peers.
Although this has happened with the best of intentions, this evidence suggests that the status quo is no longer an option.
School leaders should systematically review the roles of both teachers and TAs and take a wider view of how TAs can support learning and improve attainment throughout the school.
Use TAs to add value to what teachers do, not replace them
If TAs have a direct instructional role it is important they add value to the work of the teacher, not replace them – the expectation should be that the needs of all pupils are addressed, first and foremost, through high quality classroom teaching. Schools should try and organise staff so that the pupils who struggle most have as much time with the teacher as others. Breaking away from a model of deployment where TAs are assigned to specific pupils for long periods requires more strategic approaches to classroom organisation. Instead, school leaders should develop effective teams of teachers and TAs, who understand their complementary roles in the classroom.
Where TAs are working individually with low attaining pupils the focus should be on retaining access to high-quality teaching, for example by delivering brief, but intensive, structured interventions (see Recommendations 5 and 6).
Use TAs to help pupils develop independent learning skills and manage their own learning
Research has shown that improving the nature and quality of TAs’ talk to pupils can support the development of independent learning skills, which are associated with improved learning outcomes. TAs should, for example, be trained to avoid prioritising task completion and instead concentrate on helping pupils develop ownership of tasks.
TAs should aim to give pupils the least amount of help first. They should allow sufficient wait time, so pupils can respond to a question or attempt the stage of a task independently. TAs should intervene appropriately when pupils demonstrate they are unable to proceed.
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 out of class to enable the necessary lesson preparation and feedback.
Creative ways of ensuring teachers and TAs have time to meet include adjusting TAs’ working hours (start early, finish early), using assembly time and having TAs join teachers for (part of) Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time.
During lesson preparation time ensure TAs have the essential ‘need to knows’:
- Concepts, facts, information being taught
- Skills to be learned, applied, practised or extended
- Intended learning outcomes
- Expected/required feedback.
Use TAs to deliver high quality one-to-one and small group support using structured interventions
Research on TAs delivering targeted interventions in one-to-one or small group settings shows a consistent impact on attainment of approximately three to four additional months’ progress (effect size 0.2 – 0.3). Crucially, these positive effects are only observed when TAs work in structured settings with high quality support and training. When TAs are deployed in more informal, unsupported instructional roles, they can impact negatively on pupils’ learning outcomes.
Adopt evidence-based interventions to support TAs in their small group and one-to-one instruction
Schools should use structured interventions with reliable evidence of effectiveness. There are presently only a handful of programmes in the UK for which there is a secure evidence base, so if schools are using programmes that are ‘unproven’, they should try and replicate some common elements of effective interventions:
- Sessions are often brief (20 – 50mins), occur regularly (3 – 5 times per week) and are maintained over a sustained period (8 – 20 weeks). Careful timetabling is in place to enable this consistent delivery
- TAs receive extensive training from experienced trainers and/or teachers (5 – 30 hours per intervention)
- The intervention has structured supporting resources and lesson plans, with clear objectives
- TAs closely follow the plan and structure of the intervention
- Assessments are used to identify appropriate pupils, guide areas for focus and track pupil progress. Effective interventions ensure the right support is being provided to the right child
- Connections are made between the out-of-class learning in the intervention and classroom teaching (see Rec 7).
Ensure explicit connections are made between learning from everyday classroom and teaching structured interventions
Interventions are often quite separate from classroom activities. Lack of time for teachers and TAs to liaise allows relatively little connection between what pupils experience in, and away, from, the classroom. The key is to ensure that learning in interventions is consistent with, and extends, work inside the classroom and that pupils understand the links between them. It should not be assumed that pupils can consistently identify and make sense of these links on their own.
Download the full Guidance ReportUploaded: [3.8 MB pdf]
Summary of Recommendations PosterUploaded: [1.3 MB pdf]
Self-assessment guideAssess current practice and monitor progress against the report's recommendations.Uploaded: [272.2 KB pdf]
Ten reasons to improve the use of Teaching AssistantsA poster on the importance of improving the use of Teaching Assistants.Uploaded: [105.9 KB pdf]
Acting on the evidenceRefer to this school improvement cycle to manage changes in TA deployment and use. Contains key principles to support successful implementation.Uploaded: [228.5 KB pdf]
Action planning templateStructure your thinking around reframing the use of TAs, and develop action plan points to realise your vision.Uploaded: [335.7 KB pdf]
TA observation scheduleCollect data to aid your understanding of how TAs are deployed in classrooms across the school.Uploaded: [290.1 KB pdf]
Evidence-based TA-led literacy and numeracy interventionsAdopt evidence-based TA-led interventions that have previously been shown to impact positively on pupil attainment.Uploaded: [146.7 KB pdf]
TA policy templateCreate a policy articulating a shared understanding of TA deployment, use and training in your school.Uploaded: [305.0 KB pdf]
Teacher-TA agreement templateSupport staff to develop and specify their coordinated, but differentiated, roles during lessons.Uploaded: [173.6 KB pdf]
Visioning exerciseCreate a clear vision for your TA workforce. Define what great TA deployment and practice will look like in your school.Uploaded: [245.5 KB pdf]
Implementation template: What is expected, supported and rewarded?A template to help school leaders and programme developers clearly communicate what will be expected, supported and rewarded during the implementation process.Uploaded: [125.7 KB pdf]
Scaffolding framework for teaching assistant-pupil interactionsHelp TAs scaffold pupils’ learning and encourage independent learning.Uploaded: [206.5 KB pdf]
Effective feedback: Task, subject, and self-regulation strategiesExamples of effective feedback in the classroom.Uploaded: [1.2 MB pdf]
Interventions health checkConsider how TA-led interventions are being delivered in your school in line with the research.Uploaded: [170.9 KB pdf]
Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants online course
This course has 6 modules
Estimated time 40 minute(s)
School survey: 80% of all leaders have read EEF’s Teaching Assistants guidance; 95% of those have found it helpful
EEF blog: The Impact of Teaching Assistants – A Holistic Picture