Next week, there will be no TAs

How would you cope? This fantasy scenario would spell disaster for teachers, who have come to depend on the army of support staff that keeps schools running, day in, day out. Underpaid, undervalued and lacking career progression, Dave Speck finds those in the job are at a low ebb – but could yet be the answer to the sector’s troubles with recruitment, retention and teacher workload

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What would happen if schools across the country opened on Monday morning without teaching assistants (TAs)? In Newcastle, it would mean Year 10 pupil Kevin*, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), would “probably get himself excluded”, says higher-level teaching assistant Karen Jackson.

“He struggles with lots of noise, especially when there are lots of people around,” she explains. “And he doesn’t have the social and communication skills to work with other children, so hates being in a classroom environment. It’s about recognising the signs that he’s getting stressed. He goes tense and rigid ...

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