Do teaching assistants make a difference?


Teaching assistants feel they have a positive effect on children displaying challenging behaviour, and believe that without their support many of these children would be excluded from mainstream school.

This is the finding of a study on the role of teaching assistants (TAs) in primary schools, conducted by Dr Gemma Handelsman for Hertfordshire County Council and presented at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology annual professional event in January. The research aimed to gather the views of TAs regarding their role in supporting children displaying challenging behaviour and identify factors that help and hinder TAs in this role.

“The number of TAs in mainstream schools has almost tripled over the last decade and the number of children displaying challenging behaviour included in these schools has also increased significantly. Consequently more TAs are used to support these children, but little research has explored this aspect of their role”, said Dr Handelsman.

The new research, which used group interviews and an online questionnaire, suggests that many TAs are positive about their impact on the child’s development, their inclusion in school and their relationship with individual children. TAs say they listen to the children and help them identify their strengths. However, they were less certain about their long term impact. The findings further suggest that TAs would benefit from more opportunities to develop their understanding of children’s behaviour, and national and local SEN processes, through training and support.


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