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17th June 2013 - Teaching Assistants can and do make a difference

Catch Up Blog

TA or not TA, that is the Question!

It’s not only Hamlet who’s facing a dilemma! Recent research has called into question the benefits of spending the Pupil Premium/Pupil Deprivation Grant on Teaching Assistants. On some measures, Teaching Assistants can appear to have very little impact for a high cost. (‘A Toolkit of Strategies to improve learning’, Higgins, 2013.)

In contrast, Greg Brooks’ evaluation of literacy interventions (“What works for pupils with literacy difficulties”, 2013) found that for Y3 pupils using Catch Up® Literacy, the improvement in reading accuracy was ‘remarkable’ and for pupils in Y2 – Y9, improvement in comprehension was ‘useful to substantial’. Importantly, 95% of those learners making such excellent progress were supported by Teaching Assistants.

So who’s right?

Well, Catch Up® has found that in order to achieve maximum benefit from TAs delivering interventions, some key requirements must be met:

  • TA attends training

  • SENCO/teacher attends training alongside TA

  • School appoints ‘coordinator’ to manage the intervention

  • TA is clear about what to do with each pupil (and why they are doing it)

  • Streamlined liaison between TA and teacher is built in to the intervention procedure

How can we achieve the maximum benefit from TAs supporting learners in class?

Schools need to be clear about:
  • The role TAs are to take in lessons (not just doing the work for struggling learners)

  • Whom they are to support (not always the struggling learners)

  • What tasks they are expected to support

  • What the expected outcomes are

Leadership needs to come from the Headteacher and the SLT (not the lone SENCO!)

Added to that, schools need to acknowledge the necessity of more joint planning and feedback time for teachers and TAs (especially in Secondary schools).
Investing in TAs, in terms of training and exploring more cooperative ways of working, will pay dividends, and the struggling learners in our schools will be the beneficiaries.

Dee Reid, Catch Up® Consultant and Approved Trainer

Read more about making the most of Teaching Assistants in Dee Reid's presentation at our recent 'Overcoming disadvantage' conference.

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