Key implementation challenges
Making changes to TA deployment is not straightforward. It requires changes in structures, attitudes and working arrangements, involving staff across the school. The Action Planning Template can help you structure your thinking around reframing the use of TAs, and then put those plans into action. Although the template has been developed through work with schools, you will need to consider additional issues relevant to your context.
When making changes to how TAs are prepared for lessons, you are likely to face some key implementation challenges. Here are two common ones, along with guidance on how to overcome them:
Challenge one: lack of training budget for TAs
Budgets are always tight in schools and many organisation won’t have much money available to fund TA training. Yet, we know that TAs will always be better prepared for their classroom role if they receive relevant, high-quality CPD. Here are three cost-effective solutions you can try out:
- Identify teachers in school who are skilled in certain areas. For example, questioning, AFL and managing group work. Ask these colleagues to lead specialist training for your TAs. Create a schedule of sessions making use of a range of different teachers with different specialisms.
- Identify which TAs are already skilled in particular areas of teaching and learning. For example, you might have one TA who is particularly good at promoting independent learning. Invite other TAs to peer-observe their colleague while they work. Follow this up with discussion time (in pairs or as a group of TAs, facilitated by yourself) looking at what good practice entails.
- Include TAs in training put on for teaching staff. Make allowances for TAs different starting points by assigning them a teaching leader who can help facilitate discussion and make it easier for them to access and apply the ideas from the training. Or, use mixed groupings in which TAs and teachers work together through the course of the training – perhaps in year group or subject teams.
Challenge two: time constraints
We all know how precious a resource time is inside a school. And we also know how easily it gets eaten up. Teachers and TAs, on being asked to make changes to how they work, may tell you they do not have sufficient time and that what you are asking is unrealistic.
The key here is to be creative. Find solutions in advance of the ‘time constraint’ argument being put to you. Or, develop solutions in conjunction with TAs and teachers. Use questions such as: ‘If you had to find ten minutes each day in which to liaise, where could that ten minutes be? And what could the leadership team do to make it happen?’
Here are three examples of creative solutions to the problem of time constraints:
- A rolling schedule of assembly opt-outs giving all teacher-TA teams at least one extended period per week in which they can sit down and talk.
- A ten-minute red-box period directly after the end of the school day in which TAs and teachers can liaise. It’s called a red box period because there is a ‘red box’ around it in the timetable, meaning nothing can override it.
- Shared PPA time for teachers and TA so that some of it can be used to discuss lessons and student learning.