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[Mr George Howarth in the Chair] — Teaching Assistants

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:39 am on 18th March 2014.

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Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 10:39 am, 18th March 2014

I can confirm that. I was going to come to it later in my comments.

Over the time in which teaching assistants have become part of our school life, their role has developed from providing general administrative and logistical support to teachers to supporting the attainment of groups of pupils in schools. As many Members have said, teaching assistants are not employed simply to support the classroom teacher; they play an active role to improve children’s literacy and numeracy skills and behaviour, and often work tirelessly to help children with special educational needs and complex emotional, medical and physical needs achieve academic success. As many hon. Members have mentioned, evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation and others has shown that to be the case. Teaching assistants also have a positive effect on teacher morale and reduce stress, which is another important factor. It is absolutely right to consider teaching assistants as part of a school team made up not just of teachers—the pedagogical experts—but of all kinds of support staff, including teaching assistants, those who work with school meals and school librarians. We should see them as part of a whole.

In my comments, I want to address a misconception about the future of teaching assistants and the claims that many will lose their jobs. I absolutely assure the hon. Member for Stockton North and his colleagues that neither the Department for Education nor the Government have any plans or powers to make that happen. I welcome the opportunity laid out by the shadow Minister, Kevin Brennan, for us to have a debate about the best use and deployment of teaching assistants and how it works with other aspects of school organisation, such as continuing professional development and training. All of us want a highly trained, highly skilled work force of teachers and teaching assistants. That is our aim.

The evidence is clear that teaching assistants’ impact on pupil attainment is varied. The best teaching assistants are well-trained, informed, skilled and well-managed, but that is not true universally. We can do more to help school leaders understand how to get the best from their teaching assistants for the benefit of their pupils.