How to talk with your TAs about their future at your school
Losing and replacing a high-quality TA can be expensive, time-consuming and risky for your classroom.
TAs are significant within the school workforce and have grown in numbers in recent years. The number of full-time equivalent TAs has more than tripled since 2000: from 79,000 to 243,700 in 2018. There are currently more TAs in English classrooms than teachers, making them a crucial part of the modern classroom.
Just as teacher turnover in the UK is at a record high, so it is for TAs. There are ways you can avoid losing your TAs. These simple tips come from this excellent Guidance report from the Education Endowment Foundation on Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants. It’s an in-depth study designed to provide practical, evidence-based guidance to help primary and secondary schools make the best use of teaching assistants. It’s well worth a read and can be found here.
We’ve taken some of this great information and remodelled it to act as conversational prompts for you to have with your TAs to ensure they stay and grow with your school.
1. Make sure they feel invested in
“Is there anything we can do to help your professional development?”
Training is an important part of improving skillsets for TAs. It can make a difference between them staying and growing with your school or leaving to go to another school that will nurture them.
If you don’t have anything like this in place currently why not ask your TA - is there anything we can do to help your professional development? Take time to really listen to their answers, do they want to ultimately train to get their QTS? Do they want to become an SEN TA, a SENCO or an LSA? Understanding their desired career path means you can help direct them whilst they stay with your school to grow.
TOP TIP - Some of the best training comes from other teachers but it can be hard to make sure their schedules join up. Why not adjust TAs’ working hours (start early, finish early), use assembly time or encourage TAs to join teachers for Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time?
2. Ensure they’re confident in the work they’re doing
“How do you feel about your classroom role?”
In the article mentioned above, they say “TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource for low attaining pupils”. Whilst this focus is, correctly, on the student experience it can also apply to the TA side.
A TA who is left with sole responsibility for low attaining pupils may feel out of their depth, demoralised by lack of results or abandoned. By talking with them about their workload and how they’re used in the classroom you can help to ensure they’re being utilised in the best possible way for them and their students.
3. Check they’re well supported in their one-on-one/small group teaching
“How well structured do you think our support is for you?”
The Education Endowment Foundation report says that TAs are best utilised in smaller/one-on-one teaching. However, it warns that there is a responsibility from the school to ensure their support is as well structured as possible: “Crucially, positive effects are only observed when TAs work in structured settings with high-quality support and training. When TAs are deployed in more informal, unsupported instructional roles, they can impact negatively on pupils’ learning outcomes.”
Asking your TA this question is the first step. And, if they don’t feel they don’t have structured support working out how you could offer it to them.
Open dialogue to make a change
If you’re concerned that you’re going to lose a valuable TA soon or have been surprised by the resignation of a talented TA in the past, these three questions could be the start to opening up a dialogue that could help them stay. TAs are valuable. Talking with TAs about their development, hopes and aspirations can significantly impact on their job satisfaction, motivation and sense of appreciation. If this article has been useful why not have a read of the Education Endowment Foundation article on Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants (pdf).