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What Makes a Good Teaching Assistant?

The excellent contribution made by teaching/classroom assistants to raising achievement in schools is recognised by teachers, parents and their children. Over time, there has been an increasing role played by support staff in the direct teaching of groups and individual pupils.

Teaching assistants are an invaluable resource within schools and are judged by Ofsted against the impact they have upon learning. They need many of the same skills and competences as teachers but their role in developing learning is also specific.

However, as with teachers there is variation in practice both within and between schools and the performance management and professional development of this group should be of major focus for senior leaders in order to maximise their involvement in improving teaching and learning.  This will encourage continuous development and raise the profile and status of teaching assistants within the school community.

Whilst there are Standards for HLTAs  there are some simpler criteria that schools could look at in order to make some judgements about effectiveness of teaching assistants and to identify any particular point for professional development.

Here are some questions that schools could turn into observation sheets when looking at the contribution a TA/CA is making towards learning.

  • What is the contribution to planning made by the TA?
  • What is the TA’s role in supporting learning in the opening part of the session?
  • When working with groups/individuals does the TA have high expectations?
  • Are resources, including ICT, used effectively to support learning?
  • How effective is the TA in supporting specific literacy learning objectives?
  • How effective is the TA in supporting specific numeracy learning objectives?
  • Is the TA aware of any learning targets that pupils have?
  • How good is the TA in explaining the learning objective to pupils?
  • How good is the TA in explaining the task to pupils?
  • How good is the TA at engaging attention and enabling pupils to access the task?
  • How good is the questioning used by the TA?
  • Is appropriate modelling used by the TA to develop learning?
  • How effective is the support during the learning task – is the TA “over supportive?”
  • Does the TA motivate the pupils throughout the session, using praise encouragement etc.?
  • Does the TA manage behaviour effectively to support learning?
  • Does the TA make adjustments to the learning if needed?
  • Is there feedback to the teacher on the progress made during the session?

These questions could also form the basis of a self evaluation by teaching assistants so that they can identify those areas where they think they are skilled and those where they might need some individual support and development. It might well identify whole school issues as well.

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