I started infant teaching in 1976 and didn’t have a teaching assistant. I have strong memories of trying to meet the needs of all the children in big classes of over 30, feeling really restricted in what I was able to offer the children as the only adult in the room.
Great improvements came to both my teaching and to the pastoral care the children received after the introduction of teaching assistants. I was now able to differentiate work and activities better to meet the needs of individuals and groups. The curriculum could be more hands on, practical and exploratory with another adult in the classroom. The children received more care and attention and thrived as a result.
By the time I became Special Needs Coordinator (SENCO) later in my career, TAs had become indispensible in supporting children with Special Educational Needs. Their enthusiasm and commitment to the children they work with has never been reflected in their pay and conditions. They are always keen to attend training to enhance their knowledge and strategies for supporting children with learning, behaviour and emotional needs. Many children would not thrive, or indeed survive, in the school system without the dedication of a TA. Over the years more and more responsibilities have been given to TAs eg. contributing to Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and progress review meetings, and meeting with professionals from support agencies as they worked tirelessly to help children with the most challenging needs.
TAs are always around in the classrooms, playgrounds, corridors and dinner halls caring for the children and encouraging them to reach their full potential. Their importance to school life should not be under estimated.