Teaching assistants’ role queried – The Emperor’s new clothes

The BBC reports today that The Institute for Education has come to the conclusion that Teaching Assistants can cause pupils to make less progress not more.

As you would expect, a spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which funded the study along with the Welsh Assembly, said: “It’s counter-intuitive to say that support staff do not effect pupil progress”. Of course this was not what they meant; what they meant is that “It’s counter-intuitive to say that support staff do not improve pupil progress”. The report says they effect progress, but in a negative way!

Putting that aside, I’m sorry but, no, it is very intuitive for anyone involved in their child’s education. Given the choice, would you want your child taught by someone with at least 4 years degree level training or someone with GCSEs? Easy answer that.

However, I am not saying that support staff are a waste of money. Quite the reverse, they are invaluable in classrooms. They free teachers up to teach, and allow them to take small groups without the need to be constantly looking over their shoulder at what else is going on. The problem is that often that teachers do not use the support staff correctly. I would rather my daughter read to the teacher (who knows what to do about problems) than a support staff member who is just listening. I want to emphasis again that I am not knocking support staff. They do a great job and I wouldn’t be without them. But they can only do what they are asked to do by the teacher and that is not always tasks that benefit the pupils.

What I find most disturbing though, it is the manner of the rejection. Yet again the government rejects independent advice, that they themselves commissioned (and paid for), by a highly qualified and respected group, just because some underqualified official thinks it is ‘counter-intuitive’. Doh! Look at the evidence; the Institute was so surprised when the study showed it the first time, they repeated it several years later with the same answer.

The Emperor has new clothes, aren’t they lovely….

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