Assistance for assistants
It is good to see encouraging news about teaching assistants, but our research shows that we need to be careful about using TAs for one-to-one interventions outside class because students can become separated from the teacher and their peers.
Our research has also shown that TAs spend the vast majority of their time supporting low-attaining students and those with special educational needs in the classroom. Contact with TAs can occur at the expense of contact with teachers, which is one reason why students' progress tends to suffer.
Releasing the huge potential of TAs requires schools to fundamentally rethink 1) their everyday deployment; 2) their preparedness; and 3) their instructional talk. This strategic work may not be as easy as assigning TAs to deliver interventions outside class, but it has a more substantial impact.
Professor Peter Blatchford and Rob Webster, Institute of Education, University of London www.teachingassistantresearch.co.uk.