The rating teaching assistants receive in the Education Endowment Foundation’s teaching and learning toolkit is “depressing”, says Peter Blatchford, professor of psychology and education at the UCL Institute of Education.
Teaching assistants are described in the toolkit as “low impact for high cost, based on limited evidence”. If a school was to invest in them, according to the toolkit, pupils might make one month of additional progress per academic year. In comparison, feedback is classed as “high impact for very low cost” and has a rating of eight months’ extra progress.
Professor Blatchford finds the toolkit rating for TAs depressing, he tells TES, because it came as a result of the way these staff were used.
His research found that TAs spent most of their time supporting the least able children in class, effectively replacing the more highly qualified teacher, and attainment suffered as a result. He is optimistic that classroom assistants will climb the rankings now that research is beginning to uncover the best ways to deploy these staff.
Professor Blatchford says: “It is not often in educational research that you get such a clear picture of how you are doing things incorrectly so you can turn it around. Rather than replace the teacher, they [teaching assistants] need to add value to the teacher.”
He continues: “Yes, this information [the toolkit] is helpful – as a researcher I’m always positive about people trying to make sense of the evidence – but you need to be cautious about how you interpret it.
“Anyone reading it needs to apply their own professional judgement.”
He adds: “It’s OK, this kind of evidence, but it’s not the whole picture.”