The new school I am joining in September has a similar question hanging over it. So, I was interested to see the Education Endowment Fund have just released a report looking at TA deployment 'Making best use of Teaching Assistants'. The report, summarised on the Guardian Teacher Network, outlines three areas in which TA deployment can have a positive impact if managed correctly: in the classroom; in structured interventions; and in integrating work done in interventions with work done in the classrooms.
In the classroom, TAs' support should allow teachers to spend more time with those who need additional support. In addition, TAs can support student learning in the classroom by reinforcing rigorous teaching methods used by the teacher to help deepen students' understanding and take ownership of their learning. In order for this to happen well, TAs need to receive adequate training and supervision. Furthermore, teachers and TAs need to ringfence time to formally meet and share planning, data and feedback about pupils' progress and needs.
TAs play a vital role in delivering structured interventions, often helping pupils make several months of additional progress across a year. Again, this needs rigorous structure, support and training and have their impact carefully monitored.
Finally, the work TAs do with pupils in interventions needs to be explicitly linked to their broader learning, for pupils, parents, teachers and TAs and ways need to be found to integrate it thoroughly and consistently.
Accounting for 13% of the education budget, and a invaluable resource in supporting our pupils and improving outcomes, isn't it worth getting this right?