Education Needs: Teacher Assistants

Whilst smaller classrooms remain the holy grail as far as improving the educational experience for both teachers and students a short term solution to this issue would be to increase the number of Teacher Assistants who often help to reduce stress and work pressures an keep disruptions to a minimum for the teacher and provide a form of extra attention to the students who may be getting ‘left behind’.

A teaching assistant or teacher’s aide or education assistant or team teacher is an individual who assists a teacher with instructional responsibilities. 


I think it would be simple to assume that a TA is ‘just’ an extra person in the classroom, but having observed them in action nothing could be further from the truth!

My own school years are long behind me, but an overriding image I have is of the back of the teacher. In my memory they spent the majority of the class facing the blackboard (yes they used chalk) scribbling away and taking to themselves. If you got lost in the first 5 minutes that was it, may as well doodle on your book cover.

Not only has the technology allowed teachers to face the classroom since then, but the TA’s provide support to students who ate struggling: possibly to understand, keep up, stay engaged.

Of course that is not all they do:

  • Set up equipment, help prepare the classroom for lessons
  • Tidy up afterwards and help with displays.
  • Provide support to children requiring additional attention.
  • Provide one-to-one and small group support to children who need it.
  • Listen to children read.
  • Help the teacher with their marking and record-keeping.
  • Look after children’s pastoral needs, including dealing with playground accidents and caring for children who are upset.
  • Assist on school trips, events and outings.
  • Help students develop independent learning skills
  • Help students manage their learning.

They most certainly are not substitute teachers, although in my experience many are former teachers who retired early because they did not get enough time with the children because of the level of administration the teachers job now entails.

NB: TAs who have qualified as higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs) are allowed to teach classes on their own, cover the teacher’s absences and give the teacher time to plan and mark children’s work by taking some lessons.