Teaching Assistants work in Primary, Secondary and Special Needs Schools. Individual duties and responsibilities can vary greatly but will be outlined in their job description. A TAs role is to support – this can be in a classroom situation, with groups or individual pupils and can often be all three.
Support in the classroom (Classroom Assistant) involves more general duties helping the teacher with tasks in the classroom and pupils learning and development. TAs can be assigned to children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) who will benefit from help on a one to one basis or in smaller groups.
Responsibilities can be as a Learning Support Assistant, supporting children with learning difficulties or as a Personal Care Assistant those needing help with day to day personal care.
In 2003, the National Workforce agreement was established which acknowledged the need to raise standards in schools and address workloads. From this Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs) evolved. This higher level status gave additional responsibilities that previously only teachers could do, for example, developing support materials and assisting in lesson planning.
Some schools, especially large or special needs schools, have TAs with additional, more specific roles. This ensures that all pupils and members of the team are supported adequately. Although there are many different roles a TA can have there are fundamental aspects of the job which will be the same. These can be categorised into four areas.
1. Supporting the Pupil. Support for the pupil is support for all pupils the TA comes into contact with in the school. Even if they are assigned to an individual child they will still interact with other pupils whilst in the school environment. It is the responsibility of a TA, as all members of staff, to maintain safe and healthy surroundings for children endorsing equal opportunity for all pupils to learn and grow. TAs must not show prejudice and be alert to, and aware of, discrimination within the school, encouraging non prejudicial attitudes. It is equally important to show appreciation and acceptance of the differences between people and help children understand that everyone has different qualities.
Another aspect of a TAs job is to aid the development of pupils life and social skills. They should encourage inclusion and integration of pupils particularly when children have been taken out of class for extra help or after long periods of absence, due to illness for example. Listening to pupils and showing interest in what they do in and out of school, lifting their self esteem and building confidence, therefore encouraging independence. Whatever job description a TA has they should set a good example to pupils and be a good role model.
2. Supporting the Teacher. TAs need to be able to forge good working relations and work within structures that the teacher has outlined. Whatever specific role they have been employed for it is of great importance to be fully aware of the lesson aims and learning targets to enable the pupils to achieve their best.
A TA is in a strong position to help the teacher observe, assess and record pupils learning and behavioural progress and offer feedback on these issues.
3. Supporting the School. All members of staff, including Teaching Assistants, are part of a team and when working effectively together can only benefit the school and consequently the pupils. TAs need to be aware of and work within school policies and procedures. These policies will include matters relating to Child Protection, Health & Safety, Confidentiality and the Curriculum. It is essential to work within these policies & procedures to ensure issues, such as bullying, are reported correctly and dealt with quickly and effectively. It gives a consistent framework to deal with issues fairly and equally.
TAs support the school by acknowledging and using their skills and being prepared to learn and develop new ones.
4. Supporting the Curriculum. To support the Curriculum TAs need to have knowledge and understanding of ways in which children think and learn, progression of expected development and factors that inhibit learning. The National Literary and Numeracy Strategies have given TAs more involvement in these aspects of the curriculum, especially in primary schools. They are frequently engaged to work in other areas of the curriculum such as Physical Education (PE) and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
With these increasing responsibilities it is helpful to have knowledge of National Curriculum documents and planning processes. A Teaching Assistant, as the name suggests, is there to help pupils achieve results whilst attending school. This is where the most differences in roles can be seen. In primary schools, a Teaching Assistant assigned to a class is responsible for assisting all pupils in that class. There are many tasks this involves including: • Checking work and encouraging pupils to correct mistakes. • Listening to reading. • Helping with practical work e.g. Crafts, outdoor activities/outings. • Repeating instructions the teacher has given and ensuring the children understand what they need to do. • Working with smaller groups of children.