The role of teaching assistants in today’s modern schools
If you have children at primary school, then it’s likely that you have heard about teaching assistants, in fact, it’s probable your child interacts with at least one every day.
Although not compulsory, there are over 250,000 full-time equivalent teaching assistants in UK schools, and they perform an ever increasingly difficult job.
You will often find them in a nursery environment where it’s necessary to have at least one adult for every 13 children, but in regular classes where the requirement is for one adult for every 30 children, they still have a vital role to play.
Whatever class they’re in, they have two vital roles. They have to support the principal class teacher, and they have to help with the children’s learning.
These roles can include many jobs, such as helping to set up equipment and prepare a classroom for lessons, but there are also some other roles that TAs will get involved with.
For example, not all children learn at the same rate and may need additional help. The TA can step in and help these children when necessary, taking the pressure off the principal class teacher.
Sometimes this can extend to one-on-one support for a particular child, a role that would be extremely difficult for the main teacher to carry out when having to deal with the rest of the class.
Of course, there are also the pastoral needs of children, and dealing with children who may be upset or have had an accident on the playground.
Extracurricular activities are also where TAs can get stuck in!
Many school trips, events and visits wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for teaching assistants who get involved with the planning, organising and helping out.
This isn’t to say that a TA is always a “jack of all trades, master of none.”
Some are employed for a specific skill they may have. For example, if a class requires extra numeracy or literacy skills, a TA could be employed to bolster these needs.
Or, often you will find that TAs with a second language are especially desired in some classes as foreign languages become more important in primary education.
Can teaching assistants teach?
It’s often thought that TAs are used to cover a shortfall when teachers are away or off sick, however, this is not true.
Teaching assistants should never be used as substitute teachers. If a teacher is away on either planned or unplanned leave, such as falling ill, the school should arrange for a fully qualified substitute teacher to take over.
There is one exception to this rule, however. If a TA has qualified as a higher level teaching assistant, then they are allowed to cover absences and even teach classes on their own.
Do I need to be qualified?
TAs need to have good numeracy, literacy and organisation skills, although there are no formal qualification requirements unless a local authority or Academy sets them.
It is often desirable, however, for the TA to have shown some experience of working with children.
There is, of course, the Higher Level Teaching Assistant qualification which is a three-day course and is a nationally recognised award.
Are teaching assistants beneficial to children?
In today’s ever more pressured world where the amount of work children are expected to do increases every year, teachers themselves have ever-increasing standards to meet.
TAs can fill a vital role in ensuring no children are left behind and, importantly, be a second pair of eyes and ears in the classroom.
Although their role is not to provide care for children with learning disadvantages or other needs, they can help to support them and highlight where the primary teacher needs to prioritise help.
As such, they are seen as a vital part of a schools ecosystem, and a benefit overall to a school’s progress.
Uday Tank has been working with writing challenged clients for several years. His educational background in family science and journalism has given him a broad base from which to approach many topics. He especially enjoys writing content after researching and analyzing different resources whether they are books, articles or online stuff. You can check out their website for guest posting services on RankWisely.com.