The Changed Role of the Teaching/Classroom Assistant
“Teachers and other adults authoritatively impart knowledge to ensure pupils are engaged in learning, and generate high levels of commitment to learning across the school.”
This extract from the descriptor for ‘Outstanding’ in the latest Ofsted Framework (April 2014) shows how important the role of the teaching assistant has become.
All schools are experiencing a continual focus on increasing pupil achievement. Over time, schools have chosen to employ increasing numbers of TAs, to support the delivery of quality teaching and a modern curriculum.
Long gone are the days when they were actually known as non-teaching assistants, when they might undertake a range of low level activities which had little to do with learning and more to do with resource management.
Nowadays the focus is very much on the contribution that they make to the learning and progress made by pupils. The valuable contribution made by Teaching/Classroom Assistants to raising achievement in schools by supporting learning in a variety of ways, is widely recognised by teachers, parents and governors and there is also ample evidence from research and inspection that effective TAs play a considerable part in raising standards in the classrooms in which they work.
As expectations have risen, so has the need for training and extending confidence and the range of competencies of teaching assistants.
The Need for Professional Development
As with teachers, there is variation in practice both within and between schools, and the performance management and professional development of this group should be of major focus for senior leaders in order to maximise their involvement in improving teaching and learning.
In order to secure sustainable high quality teaching and learning, we believe that Teaching/Classroom Assistants are entitled to high quality continuing professional development just as much as teachers In order to bring this about the position/role has to be afforded the status it deserves. This entails a recognition of the key part the TA/CAs play in improving learning.
Because all learning is a two way responsibility, this also places the onus on the TA to accept the need for development needs to be identified so they can continue to improve their practice. The primary source for this, as with all teaching and learning, is through observation. A whole school policy which sets out clear criteria for observation will encourage continuous development and raise the profile and status of teaching assistants within the school community.
Whilst there are Standards for HLTAs it is not easy to align these with specific judgements about the effectiveness of any support given by TAs in a lesson or when working with intervention groups outside. What the school must do is to develop its own criteria with agreed descriptors. Even though there are many similarities, this will not be exactly the same as any framework the school uses for teachers, because the role and degree of responsibility is different.
Our online system Lessons Learned comes equipped with a framework for observing and making judgements on teaching/classroom assistants. The framework recognises the role of the teaching assistant within a teaching session and contains appropriate descriptors to help make judgements about effectiveness and identify development points.
The framework is designed to be suitable for all staff who work with teachers in classrooms supporting the learning process in nursery, primary, secondary and special schools. It can cover those who have a general support role and those who have a specific responsibility for a pupil, an age group, a subject area or for particular interventions. Within schools these staff have a variety of job titles. Within the framework the term teaching/classroom assistant is used to cover all of these.
The descriptors are quite rigorous. In discussion with schools and with TA/CAs themselves they have agreed that this should be so, in order to give a high degree of status to the process and to recognise the professionalism of these support staff.
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