Perspectives on the 'preparedness' of teaching assistants: What gets in the way?

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


The number of teaching assistants (TAs) in English schools has grown significantly over the past two decades (DfE, 2012) due to a national emphasis on inclusion and workload reform agreements (DfES, 2003). Recently, the effectiveness of TAs to support pupils’ academic progress has been questioned (Blatchford et al, 2009) suggesting that TAs ‘preparedness’ (Webster et al, 2011) lies at the heart of effective support. Consequently, there is a need to focus on how TAs are ‘prepared’ for the multiple roles and responsibilities they carry out. Although the term preparedness can be criticised for being still a vague concept, positive links have been made between TAs’ training and its effectiveness on outcomes for pupils’ academic achievement have been more evident (Farrell et al, 2010). In researching the nature and impact of training TAs, research has applied a simplistic input-output model focused on TAs alone rather than taking into account the context in which TAs work. Brown and Devecchi (awaiting publication) and Devecchi et al. (2012) suggest that this approach limits our understanding because it does not account for the reasons behind the ad hoc approach to TAs’ training. Therefore this paper answers the following questions: What are the barriers to TAs in taking up training as perceived by their managers and themselves? Does training form part of the performance review process for a TA? Their findings are drawn on questionnaires (N=238) and interviews (N=23) with TAs and those responsible for the training of TAs, including headteachers, SENCos and other senior managers from one English Local Authority. Findings suggest that TAs still face many barriers in gaining effective training and professional development. One major outcome of the study presented in this paper, is the lack of reciprocal understanding between TAs and their managers. Barriers perceived by managers e.g. family circumstances, preparedness for study are not perceived as barriers by TAs. Instead TAs suggest that finance, lack of communication, support from the school and leadership, and inequity between teachers and TAs’ training opportunities are more important barriers. Performance reviews, on the whole, were not systematic and therefore did not outline for TAs how to develop further. As a result, these findings suggest in order to support the preparedness of TAs, managers should consider training for TAs as part of a whole school plan in parallel with teachers and that this cannot occur without a financial or staffing investment.
Period1 Sept 2013
Event titleBritish Educational Research Association Conference
Event typeConference
LocationSussex, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • deployment
  • impact
  • teaching assiants