There have been a number of articles in the national press recently concerning teaching assistants in schools. Several have referenced the summary of existing research on teaching assistants in the Teaching and Learning Toolkit, produced by the Education Endowment Foundation in collaboration with the Sutton Trust and Durham University.
The summary includes the following points:
1. Overall, the current evidence base studying the impact of teaching assistants on learning is very limited.
2. Research conducted to date suggests that teaching assistants can undoubtedly contribute to the effective management and organisation of a school.
3. The existing research base suggests that, on average, teaching assistants do not improve the learning of the children and the classes that they support. However, within this average there are examples of teaching assistants improving learning, as well as examples where students working with teaching assistants make less progress than they may do otherwise.
4. The fact that the average impact of teaching assistants is neutral does not mean that teaching assistants cannot have a positive impact on attainment. However, it does imply that schools should think carefully about the strategies they use to ensure that their teaching assistants are deployed and supported effectively.
5. Certain strategies, such as ensuring that time is set aside to allow teaching assistants and classroom teachers to prepare together and discuss lessons afterwards, are likely to improve outcomes for students working with teaching assistants.
The EEF’s Chief Executive Dr Kevan Collins said: “The research we have summarised suggests that it is essential that schools think carefully about how their teachers and teaching assistants can be supported to work effectively together
“The existing evidence base clearly highlights the need to invest time and money in order to identify better ways to train and support and work with teaching assistants. The EEF is already funding seven projects at a cost of £2.4m doing just this, and our first results will be reporting in autumn 2013.”
1. The projects involving teaching assistants currently being funded by the EEF are:
- £429,553 to Catch Up Literacy to test the impact of a structured literacy intervention delivered by teaching assistants in 15 local authorities across England. The programme provides two 15 minute teaching sessions to each child per week and adopts a combination of segmenting, blending phonemes and memorising letter names of high frequency sight words.
- £148,000 to Greenford High School to develop and pilot a programme to improve pupils’ speaking and listening skills. The programme will aim to improve the quality of classroom talk and also train teaching assistants to deliver targeted interventions. The project will work with 240 students across three schools.
- £70,575 to Switch On to test the impact of a literacy programme for underperforming Key Stage 3 pupils. The programme incorporates – in a simplified form – elements of other reading programmes; the trial will involve 15 secondary schools in Nottinghamshire.
- £310,000 awarded to the Learning Trust to trial its LIT Programme that aims to improve the reading of 11 – 12 year old pupils by equipping them with strategies to understand text rather than just decode it. This will help pupils in 40 secondary schools, mainly in London.
- £185,000 awarded to the Catch Up charity working with Dr Ann Dowker of Oxford University to test an innovative programme in which specially trained teaching assistants deliver tailored support to children struggling with numeracy. It will help pupils aged 6 – 11 in 50 schools in Essex, Islington, Oxford, Southend and Thurrock.
- £525,000 to University College London to compare the effectiveness of a phonics-focused intervention with one that integrates phonics and comprehension strategies. The project will be run as a randomised control trial and delivered individually or in small groups, with sessions run by trained teaching assistants and will reach 20 schools in Yorkshire and Humber.
- £750,000 awarded to I CAN – the children’s communication charity – working with University College London and the University of Sheffield. The work will test and evaluate a new programme to improve children’s oral and language skills in nursery and Reception year classes. The new programme will help 360 pupils aged 3 to 5 at 30 schools in London and Sheffield.
2. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit entry on Teaching Assistants can be viewed here:https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit/toolkit-a‑z/teaching-assistants.
3. The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research which provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The Toolkit was originally commissioned by theSutton Trustand produced as the‘Pupil Premium Toolkit’by Durham University in May 2011. The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit has been developed from this initial analysis, since the EEF’s launch in 2011.
4. In March 2013 the Education Endowment Foundation and the Sutton Trust were together designated the What Works centre for schooling, in recognition of their pioneering approach to independent evidence-based policy making. What Works is a network of independent evidence-based organisations, which draws its approach partly from the work of the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation, and also from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, to develop evidence-based policy making in central and local government and among practitioners.
5. The Education Endowment Foundation is a charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead charity in partnership with Impetus Trust, with a Department for Education endowment of £125m. It is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £28.7 million to 56 projects working with over 300,000 pupils in over 1,800 schools across England.