A survey analysed for the National Union of Teachers by
Institute of education
Teacher Research & Development Unit
Dr. S.R.St.J. Neill
Summary -"Teaching Assistants are worth their weight in gold - but..."
Teaching Assistants (TAs) were first introduced in primary schools, Primary teachers continue to receive more assistance from TAs than their secondary colleagues, both in total time, and for most individual subjects, with the exception of Modern Foreign Languages.
TAs are most used to assist with the National Literacy and National Numeracy Strategies in primary schools, and also with IT and science.
In secondary schools aspects of English and mathematics other than literacy and numeracy are also relatively important.
In primary schools, TAs tend to be deployed to help whole year or ability groups and the most serious problem teachers encounter is lack of time to plan with their TAs.
In secondary schools, TAs are deployed more to help individuals or small groups. Teachers find variations in TAs' skills or abilities a relatively more serious problem, because of the higher academic level at which secondary schools work.
Analysis shows that TAs are most frequently deployed to serve a particular function (e.g. working with subgroups in the class) across subjects, a pattern characteristic of primary schools.
In secondary schools specialist TAs (e.g. for Modern Foreign Languages) work across different class groupings (in the class with the whole class or subgroups, or with children withdrawn from the class) in specific subjects.
Teachers commented that TAs vary considerably in ability, and that, given the inadequate pay which they receive, they could not be asked to take responsibility without teacher supervision.
Some teachers commented that they could not cope, especially since the advent of increased inclusion, without the help of their TAs. Overall, the tone of comments about TAs were positive. Adverse comments usually related to individual TAs rather than TAs as a whole.