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A report from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), ‘Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants - Guidance Report - March 2015’, has come up with a really useful summary of all the evidence on making the best use of Teaching Assistants and put it into a neat 7-point plan.
The first 4 points refer to TAs’ work in the classroom.
1. Avoid velcroing the TA to low-attaining students. Students learn more (and TAs deliver more) when TAs are deployed across the ability range. It also stops students associating TA support with low attainment.
2. TA support should not be compensating for a lack of quality first teaching. It needs to be ‘as well as’ not ‘instead of’. This message is underscored in the new SEN Code of Practice which makes it very clear that it is the class/subject teacher who is responsible for the attainment of struggling learners.
3. Schools should ensure that learning is the specific goal of the support (not just getting tasks done). Schools can do this by:
a. providing TAs with training to ask the kind of questions which model the thinking process and open up learning;
b. creating checklists for students of ‘what to do before asking for help’.
c. TAs should use language that focuses on effort and strategies rather than success e.g. ‘I can see you’re a bit stuck. Can you remember what worked for you last time that happened?’
4. Teaching Assistants can’t assist if they don’t know what’s going to go on in the lesson! They need to have a stake in lesson preparation and feedback. This will take time (and it will cost money.)
The next 2 points refer to TAs delivering structured interventions out of class.
5. Research clearly shows that TAs delivering high quality 1:1 or small group interventions have a consistent impact on attainment. (It is also just as clear that less focussed interventions are a waste of everybody’s time). There are a few key features that characterise successful interventions:
a. the TA must be trained to deliver the intervention;
b. the intervention should target specific weaknesses revealed through assessments;
c. the interventions must be managed by a SENCo or teacher;
6. Choose an intervention that has proven evidence of its success. Surprisingly, there are only a handful of programmes that have quality data to back up their claims (NB Catch Up® Literacy and Catch Up® Numeracy are among only five examples the EEF provide…..so well done us!)
Finally, the EEF recommends explicit connections are made between the intervention and everyday classroom teaching.
7. If teachers and TAs don’t stress the links between what goes on in the intervention and what goes on in the classroom, then you can be pretty sure, the student won’t! It’s up to us to give these students the joined-up teaching they deserve. It’s not rocket science to achieve this:
a. At the end of an intervention session, get the students to recap what they have learned and challenge them to say how it will help them back in the classroom
b. At the start of an intervention session, ask students how their intervention work helped them in the classroom
c. Have feedback sessions between TA and teacher so that intervention learning is capitalized upon
So, take a look at the EEF report and check out 7 smart ways to enhance the learning of disadvantaged pupils and make the most of one of your school’s most valuable resources – Tea
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