As a Teacher of English in a UK Secondary School, I would struggle to do my job as effectively, without the help of teaching assistants.
They provide vital support in a number of ways: mixed ability classes which have children with a variety of Special Education Needs can be difficult to manage, without the support of a TA. Lower level students, who have the help of the TA, know that they can rely on them. This has a beneficial effect on their behaviour which helps to foster a more positive learning environment for the rest of the students. When they have TA support, students are calmer and display fewer behavioural issues – the TA forms strong bonds with the student that helps the pupil feel secure. Often school is the only place that some students can feel safe and are encouraged to adhere to a routine - TAs play an important role in this.
The TAs at my school get heavily involved in raising achievement. Two of them co-ordinate the Nessie Reading programme and they have also piloted the Paired Reading Programme where KS3 students, whose reading age is below the national average, are paired with KS4 reading mentors, twice a week, to engage and improve their reading skills. Both of these programmes are very successful. The TAs undertake all the pre-testing and copious administration that is required before the reading schemes can commence.
I have nothing but admiration and respect for teaching assistants and the crucial role that they play in today’s education system.