The role of teaching assistants
This essay will discuss the different roles of teaching assistants in primary schools, through first hand observation and also by way of other resources such as government guidelines and journal articles. Teaching assistants (TA’s) were originally given the title of non-teaching assistants, however, the ‘non’ was dropped when it became clear that teaching assistant provided valuable input into the everyday workings of the classroom. TA’s were introduced in an attempt to reduce the workload of teachers which would in turn “raise the standards of the classroom in which the work” (DfES, 2000).
Between 1999-2001 the government injected considerable funds into Local Education Authorities to enable them to employ and train around 20,000 new teaching assistants (Ofsted, 2002). The DfES (2003) states that “teaching assistants are providing effective and valuable support in a wide range of settings” and envisages an “enhanced role for teaching assistants to free teachers from non related tasks”. My observations seem to mirror the government’s guidelines and proposals for utilizing TA’s to reduce the workload of teachers.
From my observations of teaching assistants in the classroom, I have found that they have many roles and responsibilities. I have also observed that different teaching assistants have different roles. For example: the main TA for the class has duties varying from gathering resources and taking photographs, to playground duties and helping small groups of children stay on task in the classroom. This particular TA also has the responsibility of teaching small groups of children for ‘Rocket Reading’. In rocket reading, children gather from different classes and are grouped by ability rather than age. The TA has the responsibility of teaching the key sounds and words for their level. There is also a ‘floating teaching assistant who moves between classes, as and when she is needed. This TA appears to mainly focus on tasks which do not involve the children such as photocopying resources and making up the display boards.
However there is research that suggests, if not used effectively, that TA’s could possibly have a detrimental effect (albeit inadvertently) on the educational and social wellbeing of some pupils, particularly those who have special educational needs. Children with special educational needs often have a TA who works almost exclusively with them. There is research which suggests that ‘excessive proximity of teaching assistants’ could lead to things such as behavioural problems and social isolation as the child becomes to dependant on the TA (Giangreco