[Mr George Howarth in the Chair] — Teaching Assistants

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

No, I do not have that assessment at this stage.

In 2013, the Department published a review of efficiency in the school system showing that the differences in the impact of TAs on attainment can be explained largely by how individual schools choose to deploy them. That is supported by the recent report from the Education Endowment Foundation, which showed that TAs can improve literacy and numeracy skills when deployed well and suggested that when used to support specific pupils in small groups or through structured interventions, TAs can be effective at improving attainment.

My main point of contention with the speeches made by Opposition Members is about how to improve attainment. The Government do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all solution. We believe in a school-led system. As the hon. Members who are on the Education Committee will be well aware from Andreas Schleicher’s evidence to the Committee recently, international statistics suggest that a combination of autonomy and accountability achieves the best results for schools. When head teachers are given the power to make decisions about how to deploy staff in their schools, create an effective team, develop that team and manage talent, but are held to account through rigorous systems of inspection and external accountability, that leads to the best results, which is why we are reluctant to dictate to schools how to deploy teaching assistants or impose rigid boundaries about what teaching assistants can and cannot do. We know that there are different types of schools with different students, and there might be different factors in different areas of the country, so we are reluctant to create a one-size-fits-all policy.

That is my main point of difference from Opposition Members. I certainly do not disagree about the value of teaching assistants—the evidence shows that they are an important part of our education system—but we may disagree about the best way to ensure that schools deploy teaching assistants to students’ benefit.