Do we need Teacher Assistants in all primary school classrooms?

In my years of teaching, I cannot underestimate the importance of Teacher Assistants. Having taught in a school where it was not practiced, I had always known that any knowledge passed on would have had a higher percentage of success if there were teacher assistants in every one of those classrooms. It is inconceivable sometimes, to understand how effective teaching and learning in primary schools could happen without teacher assistants; especially in Lower Primary classes from grades 1 – 3.

Schools that are applying effective modern practices have chosen to increasingly employ more Teacher Assistants. The reason is to support the delivery of quality teaching and a modern curriculum. It is encouraging to note the ample evidence from research and inspection show that teacher assistants have a significant impact on rising standards in the classrooms they work in.
The essence of the successful deployment of these assistants lies in the nature of the support that they can provide. They include:
• support for the pupil
• support for the teacher
• support for the curriculum
• support for the school.
Teacher Assistants help to:
  • Support classroom management and assist with general administration
  • Help manage pupil behaviour.
  • Support pupils’ health, safety and emotional/ social development.
  • Establish relationships with learners.
  • Help pupils to access the curriculum.
  • Support the development and effectiveness of work teams.
  • Work with other professionals
  • Liaise effectively with parents
The essence of the job is supporting children to learn under the guidance of a teacher. The sort of tasks will vary from school to school and even from teacher to teacher depending upon the needs of individual pupils and /or classes. The tasks could therefore include:
  • Supporting small groups in the classroom – especially literacy and numeracy. This is done to reach all weak students and to ensure understanding of all concepts taught
  • Working with individuals or small groups outside the classroom when appropriate. This includes ensuring safety in classes.
  • Preparing and modifying learning materials
  • Supporting individuals to stay focused on the lesson – monitoring behaviour to help keep them “on task”.
 There you go! How can we then “really” teach effectively without Teacher Assistants?

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