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

11th September 2009 at 01:00

It comes as no surprise that children taught or supervised predominantly by TAs should do less well than those taught by teachers, and the rapid increase in the number of TAs has serious implications for the most vulnerable children.

The sad thing is that with a nationally imposed, rigid insistence on children reaching standards at a certain age, those as young as in reception classes can be seen as falling behind and needing to do catch-up lessons supervised by TAs, usually outside the classroom.

The children in these groups are predominantly boys, those born in the summer and children from homes where the experience or language used is very different from that expected in schools. They do not need to be rushed into formal teaching before they have the language competence to process it.

Although some children do make significant progress, the other children in class are also making progress, so catching-up is frequently out of reach and it is often the same children who year after year are withdrawn from class to be taught by TAs.

All this leads to children becoming discouraged, dependent and demotivated and can result in behaviour problems. By labelling children in this way it can be said that our system creates children with SEN.

And the over-emphasis on national testing has compounded the problem of isolating and separating children who learn more slowly.

Those children who are not able to achieve in this way often sit together as a group, supervised by a TA.

The reality is that teachers who are under pressure to meet targets can abdicate responsibility for planning the curriculum for those children who are most in need of teacher assessment and systematic teaching.

Vicky Sander, Special needs inspector, London Borough of Dagenham (retired).

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