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Teaching Assistants: we couldn’t do without them

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September 16 is a special day when we can mark their incredible contribution to our children’s education. Former primary school teacher Catherine Lynch of education resources experts PlanBee has asked TAs about the pros and cons of their role.

Without Teaching Assistants, many schools simply couldn’t function.

We at PlanBee are all former primary school teachers. Some of the amazing things our highly skilled TAs did for us when we were in the classroom included getting to the bottom of friendship issues when children fell out with one another, running valuable support groups, and always being ready to grab the reins in an emergency – not to mention appearing with coffee and cake when we needed them most.

And on top of all that, TAs make costumes, stay late, come in early and give teachers pep talks when required.

TAs are pivotal in the care and development of children, and as former teachers and now parents we are eternally grateful to them.

To celebrate National TA Day on September 16, we asked some heroic TAs a range of questions to get a better feel for what it is like walking in their shoes.

Why did you decide to become a TA?

The TAs we asked began the role because they enjoyed working with, and spending time with, children.

‘I love kids and always wanted to work with them.’

‘I enjoyed volunteering in my daughter’s class and decided to pursue it as a career’.

They also talked favourably about their hours meaning they ‘could still be around for school pick-ups and holidays’.

What do you enjoy about being a TA?

TAs said the favourite thing about their job was helping the children succeed. Working with a fabulous team was also mentioned:

‘Seeing any achievement a child makes and how proud it makes them’;

‘Seeing the children in my interventions have “lightbulb” moments’;

[There is a] ‘good balance of supporting the children without as much paperwork as a teacher’;

‘Helping the children see how they progress and working with a fab team’

What do you find most difficult or challenging about being a TA?

A common theme TAs mentioned, that makes the job harder is a lack of support, whether that’s supporting children with challenging behaviour, not feeling they have the backup of outside agencies, the pay not reflecting the work they do, or there simply not being enough hours in the day to get everything done.

‘Limited hours’;

‘Constant challenging behaviour‘;

‘Lack of support from outside agencies because they are stretched’;

‘The pay for the amount of work I do’;

‘Not having the time allotted to me, to actually work with the children’;

‘Time pressures… not enough hours in the school day’;

‘Wanting to do more but no time to do it’

What changes would you make to the role of the TA and why?

The role of the TA has changed a lot over the years. TAs have increasing responsibilities and pressure, and their pay has not changed to reflect this. According to payscale.com the average TA salary is just under £14k. The TAs we asked said ‘better pay’ and ‘more time, less pressures’ would improve their role.

Some TAs mentioned practical changes that would make their role easier, such as ‘be[ing] involved in the planning so I know what is going on each week’ and ‘not having to read with every child every day’.

TA and teacher teams make magic.

We know from our experience that TAs are empathic, caring people who strive to do the best for the team they work with. They always go the extra mile for the children and the adults in their team.

Thank you to all Teaching Assistants. We see you working hard, and keeping classrooms running smoothly!

On September 16, we’ll be asking our followers on social media to nominate a brilliant TA. One TA will get a special thank you gift from us. Do join us on Facebook or @PlanBeeTeaching.

If you would like to know more about what a TA’s day entails, have a look at our A Day in the Life of a Primary School Teaching Assistant blog.

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