Teaching assistants are dissuaded from pursuing teacher training because of behaviour management and the workload involved, a new study has found.
The research – published today by the Department of Education – found that while the majority of teaching assistants said “they found working with children and young people rewarding”, nearly two-thirds of participants said that levels of teacher workload were unappealing to them.
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A smaller proportion of those surveyed said behaviour management, uncertainty over whether they could lead large classes, and the lack of one-to-one interaction with students were the least attractive aspects of teaching.
However, over half of those surveyed – 34 of 64 participants – said they either definitely wanted to pursue becoming a teacher, or were yet to decide. And 13 participants had become a TA with the intention of progressing into teaching.
The report also found that teaching assistants largely enjoyed their role, with some reporting they had become a TA in order to support pupils who were disadvantaged or had special educational needs.
One respondent said: “After [working] one-to-one with children with special needs I realised it was something I was passionate about and I wanted to further my career with children in mainstream school.”
But the study also found misconceptions among teaching assistants over the different routes into teacher training, with one-third of TAs reporting that they did not feel very aware of training options available to them.
“Levels of awareness among TAs about teacher training programmes generally, and the Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship in particular, were low,” the report said.
Some TAs did not realise that pursuing the Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship would require them to get a degree.
And very few TAs mentioned the Get Into Teaching website, although several interviewees mentioned that there should be a central online source of information about routes into the profession.
Participants also mentioned their need for internal and external mentoring if they pursued teacher training. The report noted that “these requests emphasise the lack of awareness among TAs generally about what is involved in teacher training”, as mentoring is a mandatory part of all teacher training programmes.
A third of those interviewed said the length of time involved in training would deter them from becoming a teacher.
A quarter of participants said the financial costs of training would be a barrier to them entering the profession, while just under a quarter of participants cited teacher workload as a barrier to them training.
Participants cited increased paperwork, the accountability of meeting targets for student outcomes, and the effect on their work-life balance as concerns that might deter them from becoming a teacher.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Teaching assistants play an important role in the classroom, supporting both the teacher and the pupils to achieve their full potential, and this research shows that."
“Teachers and support staff should be in no doubt that this government fully backs them at every stage of their career. This starts with providing rewarding starting salaries, alongside giving all those working in schools the powers they need to deal with bad behaviour and bullying.”