Recommendation Five: Use TAs to deliver high quality one-to-one and small group support using structured interventions

Page five of the guidance report says: 

“Research on TAs delivering targeted interventions in one-to-one or small group settings shows a consistent impact on attainment of approximately three to four additional months’ progress (effect size 0.2–0.3). Crucially, these positive effects are only observed when TAs work in structured settings with high-quality support and training. When TAs are deployed in more informal, unsupported instructional roles, they can impact negatively on pupils’ learning outcomes.”

Recommendation Six: Adopt evidence-based interventions to support TAs in their small group and one-to-one instruction

Schools should use structured interventions with reliable evidence of effectiveness. There are presently only a handful of programmes in the UK for which there is a secure evidence base, so if schools are using programmes that are ‘unproven’, they should try and replicate some common elements of effective interventions:

  • Sessions are often brief (20– 50mins), occur regularly (3–5 times per week) and are maintained over a sustained period (8–20 weeks). Careful timetabling is in place to enable this consistent delivery;
  • TAs receive extensive training from experienced trainers and/ or teachers (5–30 hours per intervention);
  • The intervention has structured supporting resources and lesson plans, with clear objectives;
  • TAs closely follow the plan and structure of the intervention;
  • Assessments are used to identify appropriate pupils, guide areas for focus and track pupil progress. Effective interventions ensure the right support is being provided to the right child;
  • Connections are made between the out-of-class learning in the intervention and classroom teaching (see Recommendation 7).”

What does this mean in practice? 

Teaching assistants often take on the role of delivering one-to-one or small group interventions. There is no guarantee this model will result in pupils making better progress than if they do not attend interventions

Evidence suggests a selection of high-quality, structured interventions can enhance pupil progress when delivered as intended, by TAs who are well-trained and well-supported. To date the EEF has found evidence of impact for seven structured interventions led by TAs.

However, not all schools will want to use these particular interventions. In some cases, they may not be appropriate. What schools can do, though, is take a set of elements common to effective interventions and use these to underpin any interventions that TAs deliver.

Take another look at the six bullet points above. Notice how they echo the framework under which a good teacher operates – extensive training, consistent, sustained delivery of brief but regular sessions, appropriate resources, lesson plans and objectives, relevant assessment practices, and the linking of learning between different areas of the curriculum.

Now, consider the experience of a pupil who attends interventions of this type. Put yourself in their shoes. What would it be like?

The first thing we can say is that it would make sense. Individual sessions would have a clear purpose. Sequential sessions would connect together. Time out of class would be minimised. And all of the learning would link back to what was happening in the classroom. In other words, the use of TAs in delivering interventions exemplifies the principle of supplementing, not replacing, the teacher.

Second, they would recognise their teaching assistant as an expert. Someone who knows precisely what they are doing, can communicate this in clear terms, and who is always well-prepared and well-planned.

Third, the pupil would likely find themselves making progress at a good rate. They would experience success, motivating them to persist. The intervention would develop positive connotations for them.

Implementing Recommendations Five and Six means putting TAs in a position where the interventions they deliver are always of the highest quality. The aim must be that participating in an intervention should at least compensate for the time they spend away from the classroom working through the programme. This makes TAs’ work rewarding, raises their status in the school, and helps to improve outcomes.