An independent review to establish a new set of professional standards for teaching assistants is to be set up, the Department for Education has announced.
It wants a new set of standards to be “clearer and more concise” than the current version, and to reflect the “diversity of the existing schools system”.
They will be used to assess the performance of teaching assistants and their professional development needs, and will focus on their relationship with teachers.
The standards “are designed to inspire confidence in teaching assistants and ensure that schools use their skills and expertise to best effect”, the DfE has claimed.
The news has been welcomed by unions representing school support staff.
Questions had previously been raised about the future of teaching assistants. Changes to teachers’ working conditions announced in February, particularly the scrapping of 21 prohibited administrative and clerical tasks, led to speculation that teaching assistant positions could be at risk.
At the time, Jon Richards, Unison’s head of education and children’s services, described the move as “deregulation that will add further work to teachers whilst support staff jobs are cut”.
But the latest move appears to signal a public show of confidence in teaching assistants by the government.
Schools minister David Laws said: “Good teaching assistants are essential to driving up standards in the classroom and helping students fulfil their full potential.”
Kate Dethridge, principal of Churchend Primary Academy in Reading, has been appointed to chair the review, which has been asked to report back to education secretary Nicky Morgan in the spring.
Mr Richards said the latest news was “very welcome”, adding: "Only last year, right wing thinktanks and some in government were seeking to get rid of teaching assistants.
"Our campaign to defend this invaluable group of staff has changed the narrative. Recent research showed that, when deployed properly, teaching assistants have a positive impact on children’s education. Wisely, the DfE has recognised that if you improve the skills and professional standards of teaching assistants this will have a positive impact on education standards.”