I have just spent a year with a Year 4 class of 33. My TA was a star. She was so patient and worked so hard, mostly with the lower achieving groups, that they have left Y4 with a real sense of achievement and pride. She also helped to keep me sane and taught me a lot about different techniques to use with children who are struggling.
The times when she was not there, I found myself having to work with these groups at the expense of the rest of the class. I think inclusion is a good idea in theory, but when two-thirds miss out on focused teacher time because of the behaviour and needs of less able children then the only option has to be teaching assistants. I say give them more money and recognise the fantastic job they do.
Every teacher in my primary has the support of a full-time general classroom assistant, and most are worth their weight in gold. We are lucky enough to be able to fund, in addition, a reprographics assistant, an ICT technician, and several assistants deployed to children with challenging behaviour, or special needs not covered by statements.
The support of all these assistants surely enables the class teacher to concentrate on hisher job. I can't imagine a way in which the money they earn could be better spent. As I suspect someone will suggest employing more teachers instead, I'd add that we can pay four or five assistants for the cost of one teacher. And no, I don't think they earn enough!
I am a TA (a male one working in primary).I believe I give "value for money". I am not there to be a threat to teachers (I am in the process of obtaining a degree and will then apply for a teacher training place).
My job is to support them as much as it is to support the pupils. It's just a shame that so many fellow professionals perceive TAs as a threat to their job, professional standing and social status. Gone, long gone, are the days of the classroom helper who was there just to clean up paint pots and snotty noses.
TAs are defintely not a threat to teachers. Indeed, they are a vital part of schools these days. School budgets should be large enough for every class to have one. What is a threat is the use of TAs to perform whole-class teaching roles. Teachers had to fight hard to become a graduate profession with the status (and wages) that conferred upon them. I wish you luck with your teacher training. I know many TAs who have gone this route and been very successful. "A qualified teacher in front of every class" is definitely something worth holding on to.
I'm sure that (good) TAs complaining about lack of pay, status and recognition have a very valid point. But why have TAs in the first place? In secondary at least, we shouldn't have TAs, only teachers. These TAs that brag about their pay, responsibilities and capability being better than a teacher should qualify to teach, and take some of the load of these "inferior" teachers. Having two teachers, each teaching a class of 17, is better than one teacher and one TA with a class of 34. The only reason we don't have this arrangement is because TAs are a cheap alternative to proper teachers.