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John Simkin

Maths and Teaching Assistants

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There are 120,000 teaching assistants in English schools. The government claim that teaching assistants are at the heart of its strategy for improving standards in schools.

Professor David Reynolds of Exeter University has just published research into the effectiveness of using teaching assistants in the classroom. Reynolds studied teaching assistants helping primary children with maths.

The assistants supported weaker groups in the class while the teacher continued with the lesson. Despite the extra help, their results did not improve.

"Overall, then, this study does not provide much support for the use of assistants as a way of improving the achievement of low-achieving students, or as a means of increasing child-adult contact without employing more teachers," says the study.

"We think that what happens is that in the short term the arrival of classroom assistants makes the classroom complex for the existing teachers," explained Prof Reynolds. He said that schools need additional training in how best to use the assistants.

"The implications of this research are that it would be a mistake to only train the classroom assistants and not also include a large-scale national programme of national training for all the teachers who will be getting assistants in their classrooms."

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it would be a mistake to only train the classroom assistants and not also include a large-scale national programme of national training for all the teachers who will be getting assistants in their classrooms

I think this is a very good point. How many of us have really thought through our current use of teaching assistants when planning lessons? They are, or can be a valuable 'resource' but they are often underused and left to 'fit in' wherever they think there might be a need within a classroom.

I have just suggested to a teacher trainee that she includes in her planning how she would like to use me as a teaching assistant in her next lesson. It will be interesting to see the results.

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