Teaching assistants too scared of ‘undermining’ teachers to confront unruly pupils

Tes is reporting that a study by Northampton University found that TAs felt “awkward” about their place in the classroom. 

And while TAs thought that they should be managing children’s behaviour, Emma Clarke, the study’s author and a former primary teacher, found that there was little time for teachers and TAs to talk about how this should be done.

The research, based on in-depth interviews with 30 TAs from 18 schools, found that TAs were relying on guesswork and experience to guide how they managed pupils.

“None of the TAs in this study had ever had a conversation with a teacher about their role in classroom discipline, yet each of them believes it is part of their job,” Dr Clarke said.

There are 277,500 TAs employed in primary schools across England and Dr Clarke found TA roles varied widely, ranging from pastoral support to administrative duties, academic support and work in partnership with teachers.

“Many teachers don’t communicate effectively with TAs due to time pressures and workload, and as a result, there is a very wide gulf in expectations. This leads to a great deal of uncertainty for TAs and often inaction on their part.”

She said: “TAs could potentially contribute so much more to our children’s education if their place in the classroom was properly defined. Classroom behaviour is known to be a key factor in deterring undergraduates from training as teachers.”

Read more Teaching assistants too scared of ‘undermining’ teachers to confront unruly pupils

Are you a TA that feels the same? Or do you communicate enough with your TA? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Judith Wilson

    It is most definitely part of a TA’s job to manage student behaviour in the classroom but it is also true that their role in this aspect of lessons is, in general, never properly discussed with the teaching staff (but only because of time constraints). However, even if a less experienced TA is somewhat timid and finds it difficult to exert their own authority in the presence of the class teacher, this changes with time as they become more familiar with the job and they gain confidence. Most TAs (in my experience) will try to preface instructions with, “You should be listening to your teacher”, “Listen to your teacher or you won’t know what to do”, or something similar, which is still reinforcing the teacher’s authority and making it clear who has the ultimate control. I think any teacher would be horrified if a TA did nothing to help them rectify a bad situation – hopefully, more and more teachers and TAs consider themselves a team nowadays!

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