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Research into support staff roles

Primary pupils' reading programme shows effective way for schools to help close disadvantage gap  - October 2019

The latest trials by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) find more evidence of the positive impact of targeted interventions for struggling readers. The reading skills of primary pupils can be boosted by an additional two months when they are made to think about, question and summarise different texts, according to new research. The intervention researched, 'Reciprocal Reading', can be carried out by teachers or teaching assistants. Find out more here.

Promising numeracy intervention delivered by teaching assistants

The Education Endowment Foundation tested 1stclass@number, a programme delivered by teaching assistants which provides intensive support for pupils struggling with maths. Their evaluation found that pupils who received 1stclass@number made, on average, two additional months’ progress in maths. Find out more here.

The deployment of teaching assistants

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) carries out research into how teaching assistants can have the most impact in the classroom. The findings have been used to create a guidance report for schools, 'Making best use of teaching assistants', which contains seven evidence-based recommendations for maximising the impact of TAs. The report highlights the importance of high quality training and says that teaching assistants should be seen as an effective way of complementing teachers, rather than replacing them. UNISON, which represents more than 150,000 teaching assistants in the UK, has long argued that the vital role teaching assistants play in boosting quality and standards should be backed up by greater investment in the workforce. The seven recommendations are:

1. TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource for low-attaining pupils.

2. Use TAs to add value to what teachers do, not to replace them: it is important that they supplement, rather than replace, the teacher.

3. Use TAs to help pupils develop independent learning skills and to manage their own learning.

4. Ensure TAs are fully prepared for their role in the classroom: schools should provide sufficient time for TA training and for teachers and TAs to meet outside lesson time.

5. Use TAs to deliver high-quality one-to-one and small-group support, using structured interventions.

6. Use interventions with reliable evidence of effectiveness. These sessions are often:
a. brief (20-50 minutes)
b. regular (three to five times a week)
c. sustained (over a period of between eight and 20 weeks)

7. Ensure explicit connections are made between everyday classroom teaching and structured interventions: interventions should extend work done during whole-class lessons.

An online course has been developed for those in school leadership roles which explains the guidance.

The EEF have since carried out research into TA interventions using rigourous methodology and found that all six projects involving TA-led literacy/numeracy interventions have shown positive impacts on pupil’s learning, typically adding around three to four additional months progress. Encouragingly, there are signs that these interventions disproportionality benefit low attaining and pupils eligible for Free School Meals, and so could be effective approaches to ‘narrow the gap’. Importantly, the positive effects observed in these projects only occur when TAs work in structured settings with high-quality support and training.  Read more here. These findings were also reported in a Guardian newspaper article.