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Maximising the impact of teaching assistants | RFTRW: S01E04

27 May 2020

It’s the season 1 finale, and it’s Rob’s turn to be grilled. Gently, of course. Dr Humera Iqbal explores the role of teaching assistants, how valued they are by schools, and their importance in the current climate.

Research for the Real World

Research for the Real World: S01E04

Dr Rob Webster, Associate Professor, Centre for Inclusive Education

Prior to his move into academic research, Rob’s educational journey began as a teaching assistant, so it is fair to say that he has “walked the walk” in order to be able to “talk the talk”.

Rob explains the evolution and role of TAs, starting off as parent volunteers in the late 1970s through to their formalisation in the 1990s. Today, the number of TAs in English schools rivals that of the population of Iceland - over 380,000.

The focus of Rob’s research is on TAs and how they support disadvantaged pupils, particularly those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Rob’s involvement in the landmark Deployment and Impact of Support Staff Project (DISS) investigated how TAs affected learning outcomes.

We also find out how findings from the research prompted Rob and his team to develop a programme, Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants (MITA), aimed at TAs to improve their interactions with pupils as well as developing their confidence and leadership capabilities.

Finally, Rob and Humera discuss how TAs will be perceived and treated in the current climate and the future, where education budgets are threatened and schools embark on plans to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. What will this mean for them, and for the children they help?

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