Behaviour podcast: teaching assistants and behaviour

Does having a teaching assistant in your class mean an easy way to offload behaviour duties? Grainne Hallahan explores the best way to work with your TA

Grainne Hallahan

team work teachers

Behaviour in the classroom is always ultimately the responsibility of the teacher.

However, that doesn’t mean that maintaining behaviour standards is the sole duty of the classroom teacher.

It’s a combined effort: from the senior leaders, to the middle leaders, and also the support staff.

Speaking on this month's Tes Behaviour podcast, Sally Franklin, a senior teaching fellow from University College London's Institute of Education says teaching assistants (TAs) are often mistakenly put into the role of managing the behaviour of individual students. 

She warns, however, that this often isn’t helpful, and risks reducing TAs to classroom security guards. 

“I think we can easily slip into a model whereby a TA is there to sort low-level disruption and behaviour. This is quite frustrating for TAs,” she explains. 

One of the problems, Franklin continues, is confusion about what a TA actually does and the intimidation that can bring, particularly for new staff. 

“Sometimes that role [of being a teacher with a TA] can feel a little bit daunting,” she says. “You go into a classroom, you're relatively new to the profession and you have a TA working with you who has been there for a lot longer than you have.”

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Franklin suggests teachers should find out what is (and isn’t) OK to ask of TAs. Speak to the school Sendco about what to expect can help, but just as important is building a good working relationship. 

“[The teacher must work on] really building up that rapport, that relationship,” she says. “What are the expectations? How do we both work? What are our skills? What do we both enjoy doing? How can I support?”

So what does this look like in practice?

Katie Macalister and Julie Hatfield are the teacher and TA in the foundation class of St Margaret’s Primary School in Barking.

Macalister is in her second year of teaching, whereas Hatfield has been working at St Margaret’s for 20 years. This is their second year working together as a team. 

As an NQT, Macalister found that having Hatfield as an experienced TA meant she had real support in managing behaviour in the classroom.

“The first year obviously was my first year being in the school. So it was about learning the school’s routines, procedures, policies,” she explains.

“Obviously, as Julie was already here and had a lot of experience, I relied on her support.”

Hatfield and Macalister may have very different roles in the classroom, but when it comes to behaviour, they take a united approach. 

This means sharing the planning, and then sharing the strategies, and finally sharing the roles in the execution.

And it is this kind of partnership that ensures behaviour is calm, and all of the children are able to focus on their learning.

“[Behaviour is manageable because] I know what's expected, and then I can tell the children what I expect from them,” says Hatfield. 

Macalister agrees. “Because we teach the behaviour and policies, and both work together, we both know what the expectations are of our class. So through working together, we know which children need a little bit of extra support and guidance.”

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Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan is Tes recruitment editor and senior content writer at Tes

Find me on Twitter @heymrshallahan

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