Schools should provide sufficient time for TA training and for teachers and TAs to meet out of class to enable the necessary lesson preparation and feedback. Creative ways of ensuring teachers and TAs have time to meet include adjusting TAs’ working hours (start early, finish early), using assembly time and having TAs join teachers for (part of) Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time.

During lesson preparation time ensure TAs have the essential ‘need to knows’:

  • Concepts, facts, information being taught
  • Skills to be learned, applied, practised or extended
  • Intended learning outcomes
  • Expected/required feedback." (Page 4 of the guidance)

What does this mean in practice?

Many TAs go into lessons ‘blind’. And this is through no fault of their own. The employment and deployment decisions made at the school level – often arrived at without a wider strategy or purpose – leave TAs with no time in which to communicate with the teachers in whose lessons they will be working.

This lack of communication makes it difficult for them to prepare effectively. They do not know what content will be covered, what is expected in terms of pupil learning, and what appropriate feedback should look and sound like.

Imagine if you found yourself in the same position. You were expected to support in a series of different lessons every week, but you were not given dedicated time in which to communicate with the teacher of those lessons about what they will involve, what pupils should be achieving, and how best you can support them.

Lesson preparation time doesn’t need to be long. Many schools find that ten minutes at the start of the day can be enough. Or ten minutes at the end of the day to discuss tomorrow’s lessons. But this is vital time for any teaching assistant. It’s the time in which they gain access to the information they need to do their job effectively. Without it, they are insufficiently equipped and this reduces their impact in the classroom.

Here’s a final thought before we move on. Imagine two schools. In the first, TAs invariably arrive at lessons ‘blind’. They’re playing catch-up from the moment they walk through the door and have to guess what the teachers want them to do and the pupils to learn and achieve. In the second, TAs and teachers meet at the start of each day, albeit briefly, to discuss the lessons ahead and obtain the essential ‘need to knows’ that will make all the difference to the quality of their input.

There can be no doubt that the second school is making better use of resources and maximising the opportunity for teaching assistants to have a positive impact on learning.