Don't sacrifice invaluable TAs on altar of one-sided reporting

11th September 2009 at 01:00

Analysis of the impact support staff can have in schools is to be welcomed. But it is important that your report on the Institute of Education's research ("Teaching assistants impair pupil performance", September 4) does not stand alone.

It should be seen as part of the growing evidence base for the difference TAs can make to schools and pupils.

Recent research from the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, Ofsted and the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information centre demonstrates a very different story from that of last week's report - that support staff make teaching more productive and have a positive effect on pupils' learning and behaviour. I am convinced that this is the reality.

The IoE is right to talk about the importance of support staff developing new skills. It is clear that their effective training and deployment result in a school's success and help to raise standards.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools is working to help all schools use support staff as effectively as possible. We encourage school leaders to refer to the occupational standards for support staff including developing frameworks to improve the quality of training, and we are making funding available through local authorities.

I wholeheartedly echo (TES editor) Gerard Kelly's sentiment that "for many teachers, an excellent TA embodies the best of a school" (Editorial, September 4).

They are an invaluable resource to teachers and can dramatically improve outcomes for pupils.

Graham Holley, Chief executive, Training and Development Agency for Schools.

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