When you reflect back on your school days, do you remember there being more than one adult in the classroom at times? Maybe you had a bit of extra support with subjects that you found challenging? Was there someone who wasn’t a teacher you knew you could go to for support? Then you’ve more than likely come into contact with a Teaching Assistant, a stalwart of UK classrooms. September 16th marks National Teaching Assistants’ Day, a chance to celebrate all that these professionals do to support teachers and students.
The day was set up by teaching personnel who wanted to recognise the contribution that TAs (teaching assistants) make in the classroom. In honour of the TAs that support pupils and teachers every day, we wanted to talk about some of things that they do; so, if you’ve not thanked your TA recently, now is the time!
Teaching Assistants Support Students With Learning or Physical Disabilities
In a class of substantial size, it can be difficult for pupils with learning difficulties to receive the support they need to properly understand the curriculum. Teaching assistants will often work side by side with these pupils in some or all of their lessons to help them understand the content of the lesson. In some cases, this may include translation or communication for visually or hearing-impaired students, or providing physical support moving between lessons. The dedicated help these TAs give means that students with additional needs can keep up with their peers, avoiding the need for them to attend a specialist school.
That heart-warming display of Year 2’s Christmas artwork? Chances are, it was put together by a TA. Even primary-level teachers are increasingly subject to a workload that pushes their timetable to its limit, leaving little time for smaller, but still essential, tasks to enhance the learning environment. From putting together displays to printing out worksheets and other materials, some teachers will insist that their TA is the reason for an orderly classroom.
Effectively Supporting Teaching
This is especially pertinent in larger classes or where there is group work; in these cases, a teacher may have limited time to spend supporting students effectively. An extra pair of eyes means that more students can access help and guidance should they need it, and reduces the pressure on teachers that are limited by timetables. As TAs become more experienced, they will also become extremely quick to identify students that are struggling and need additional help.
Reducing Stress Levels On School Trips!
Whether it’s a group of six-year-olds or 16-year-olds, school trips can often bring out the excitability in children; we wouldn’t mind betting that every teacher has a school trip story that ends with them nursing a cuppa, completely exhausted. Again, an extra pair of eyes to ensure safety of pupils is indispensable, and they do say that there’s safety in numbers.
It’s A Growing Profession, Proving Their Worth
Statistics recorded a few years back showed that between the years of 2002 and 2011, the number of TAs in the UK grew from 71,800 to 134,100. That’s around an 87% increase in less than a decade.
Primary schools in particular have seen class sizes swell (and they continue to rise), so perhaps the increase in TAs isn’t disproportionate. And it’s not without demand either: 43% of parents with Autistic children want more TAs in schools.
Phew, that’s a busy workload. We’re sure you’ll join us in sending out a huge chunk of gratitude to teaching assistants currently supporting classrooms across the UK. If you’ve got activities planned for #NationalTADay, we’d love to hear about your plans – got a TA you want us to spotlight? Get in touch here!