Education Endowment Foundation:Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants

Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants

UCL Institute of Education
Implementation costThe cost estimates in the Toolkits are based on the average cost of delivering the intervention.
Evidence strengthThis rating provides an overall estimate of the robustness of the evidence, to help support professional decision-making in schools.
Impact (months)The impact measure shows the number of additional months of progress made, on average, by children and young people who received the intervention, compared to similar children and young people who did not.
Project info

Independent Evaluator

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Training and support for heads, teachers and teaching assistants on how to use TAs in the classroom

Pupils: 13118 Schools: 128 Grant: £558,148
Key Stage: 1, 2 Duration: 4 year(s) 10 month(s) Type of Trial: Efficacy Trial
Completed September 2021

Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants (MITA) is a whole-school training and consultancy programme for school leaders, teachers, and teaching assistants (TAs). The programme supports schools to improve how TAs are deployed in a classroom setting, prepared for lessons, and interact with pupils to improve pupil outcomes.

MITA is a whole school intervention lasting one academic year. Training and support are provided to all school staff, across three levels:

Headteachers and a senior leader attend four half-day training sessions. An external consultant provides on-going support to school leaders to identify gaps in current practice and develop an improvement plan.
TAs receive two half-day training sessions on effective interactions with pupils and improving pupil independence.
Teachers receive one twilight session on planning lessons and organising classrooms, to capitalise on the TA training.

The version of MITA trialled in this study was evaluated over two years. Schools received MITA in the first year and fully implemented their improvement plans without further support in the second year.

The MITA programme was developed in response to the Deployment and Impact of Support Staff (DISS) study, which found that pupils receiving the most support from teaching assistants (TAs) made less progress than similar pupils receiving less TA support. The effects were most pronounced for the groups of pupils TAs support most often: lower-attaining pupils and those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The study found that it was the decisions made by school leaders and teachers about how TAs were deployed and prepared that had the most influence over the impact of TA support.

This evaluation is the first randomised controlled trial (RCT) studying the efficacy of a whole school intervention aimed at improving how schools deploy TAs in everyday classrooms. The trial involved approximately 13,118 pupils across 128 primary phase settings. The evaluation found that pupils in schools implementing MITA made no additional progress in reading attainment (the primary outcome), compared to pupils in the control group. These results have a high security rating: four out of five on the EEF padlock scale. The evaluation did not find any additional benefits for pupils on free school meals or pupils with SEND. There was also no evidence of impact on Year 6 pupils’ maths attainment. However, it should be noted that attainment outcomes are seen as a long-term outcome stemming from the improvements to pupil engagement and TA deployment and preparation targeted by the MITA programme.

Analysis of TA deployment, preparation, and interactions indicates that MITA schools changed their behaviour in line with MITA principles, compared to control schools. MITA aims to improve pupil engagement, which may subsequently impact attainment over time. There was a moderate positive impact on pupil engagement for schools in MITA compared to control schools. Both results were assessed using a smaller number of schools, with several unable to complete surveys, which limits the security of these findings.

The evaluation findings suggest that MITA had an effect on immediate outputs such as TA deployment, preparation, and interactions, and the outcome of pupil engagement. However, this did not translate into an impact on pupil attainment. There are several possibilities that may explain why these changes did not lead to a detectable change in attainment. These include more time needed for changes in attainment to be realised, the need for further follow-on training and support in subsequent years, or that MITA has a stronger impact on outcomes such as attention, independence, confidence, and motivation.

The EEF has no plans for a further trial of the MITA programme.

  1. There is no evidence that MITA had an impact on reading outcomes for pupils in Year 3 and Year 6. This result has a high security rating.
  2. MITA had a moderate positive impact on pupil engagement. Pupils in MITA schools were more engaged than pupils in control schools, however the analysis used a smaller number of schools with several schools unable to complete the measure, which limits the security of these findings.
  3. There is evidence that staff in MITA schools changed their behaviour in line with MITA principles, based on a measure of change in practice when compared to control schools. Although evidence is limited by a small sample and the use of a new measure of change in practice that has not been tested more widely, behaviour change is supported by evidence from the teacher and TA surveys, interviews, and classroom observations.
  4. During the trial, control schools made substantial efforts to improve TA deployment in line with many of MITA’s key recommendations. However, an analysis of behaviour from teacher and TA surveys between the start and end of the trial suggest that this did not translate into changes in behaviour.
  5. Interviews in case study schools indicate that senior leadership and staff buy-in are fundamental for effective implementation of MITA. Staff turn-over at the senior leadership and classroom level are potential barriers to embedding MITA principles in the longer term.