from The Open University
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
The Bottom Line: Autumn 2015: Crisis at VW: A Bottom Line SpecialSaturday, 10th October 2015 17:30 - BBC Radio 4In this special episode of The Bottom Line, Evan Davis and his guests discuss the emissions scandal at Volkswagen. Read more: The Bottom Line: Autumn 2015: Crisis at VW: A Bottom Line Special
The Great British Year: SpringMonday, 12th October 2015 21:00 - BBC Four
The Secret Life of Books: Series Two: The Faerie QueeneTuesday, 13th October 2015 20:30 - BBC Four
The Secret Life of Books: Series Two: The Faerie QueeneWednesday, 14th October 2015 02:30 - BBC Four
BBC Inside Science: Coral, LIGO and physicsAvailable for over a yearThis week on BBC Inside Science: coral resilience, gravitational waves and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Read more: BBC Inside Science: Coral, LIGO and physics
The Great British Year: WinterAvailable until Friday, 6th November 2015 22:00
The Bottom Line: Autumn 2015: Crisis at VW: A Bottom Line SpecialAvailable for over a year
The ascent of woman: RevolutionAvailable until Friday, 6th November 2015 02:15
Have the Tunisian elections have started a new democratic era?October 2014 saw Tunisians vote in a return to pluralist democracy in the state. One local... Read more: Have the Tunisian elections have started a new democratic era?
OpenLearn Live: 9th October 2015Completing our tour of Rutland, creating characters & Nobel prizes. Then more free learning... Read more: OpenLearn Live: 9th October 2015
Start writing fiction: characters and storiesThis free course helps you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central... Try: Start writing fiction: characters and stories now
Introduction to bookkeeping and accountingLearn about the essential numerical skills required for accounting and bookkeeping. This free... Try: Introduction to bookkeeping and accounting now
Teaching assistants: support in action
Teaching assistants are an important resource in education. This free course, Teaching...
Teaching assistants are an important resource in education. This free course, Teaching assistants: support in action, looks at how the role has developed across the UK over time. It explores the skills and attributes that teaching assistants use to provide effective support and contribute to productive teamwork. This OpenLearn course introduces diverse roles and distinctive contributions of teaching assistants.
By the end of this course, you should:
- be able to discuss how the UK’s teaching assistant workforce came into being
- be developing your understanding that teaching assistants are part of a wider assistant workforce in the public services of health, social services and education
- have insights into the diverse roles and distinctive contributions of teaching assistants across the UK
- be able to identify some of the skills that teaching assistants use to provide effective support and that contribute to productive teamwork
- be reflecting on the value of the work of teaching assistants and on the support skills involved, and thinking about your future role.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 The rise of assistants
- 2 Contribution and roles
- 3 Support in action
- 4 Looking to the future
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn and track your progress. Make your learning visible!
Teaching assistants: support in action
Teaching assistants, and similar learning support staff, are a substantial part of a workforce that spans the public sector. They are sometimes referred to as ‘paraprofessionals’ – workers who supplement and support the work of qualified professionals. We would argue, however, that teaching assistants have a distinct professionalism themselves which often overlaps with and which is comparable to that of teachers. Since first being introduced into in the 1960s as ‘aides’, ‘helpers’ and ‘auxiliaries’, teaching assistants have become essential to children’s learning in primary schools across the UK and further afield. Whatever your learning support role in schools may be, you are part of this historic development.
For convenience, we have adopted the generic term ‘teaching assistant’ throughout this free course, Teaching assistants: Support in action. We use these words in preference to ‘TAs’, which, we feel, is reducing of status. ‘Teaching assistant’ is currently the preferred term of government but there are many others in use across the UK. We therefore use ‘teaching assistant’ to refer to the various kinds of volunteer and paid adult (other than qualified teachers) who provide learning support to primary aged children in the UK.
A central feature of the teaching assistant workforce is its considerable diversity – in terms not only of titles and linked responsibilities but also of previous experience, formal qualifications, in-service training opportunities, ways of working and skills for carrying out support work. The recruitment of paid assistants and volunteers has brought into schools a range of adults in addition to qualified teachers, with much to offer children. Their work enhances children’s experience of learning in school. This course aims to reflect this diversity and to encourage you to think about your part in the many roles that teaching assistants can play.
One interesting feature of the teaching assistant workforce is the extent to which it is overwhelmingly female. Why are women, especially many who are mothers, drawn to this work, and why are there so few men? This is one of the themes you will explore in this course.
As with teachers and their work, teaching assistants require many skills for working with children, and there is often more than one way of being effective. Later in this course we examine the approach of one teaching assistant, Caroline Higham, and consider how she collaborates with a class teacher and brings her distinctive practice to a maths lesson.
Teaching assistants are a very significant and essential resource in primary classrooms, so much so that it is hard to imagine how schools could manage without them.
The Open University is conducting a survey investigating how people use the free educational content on our OpenLearn website. The aim is to provide a better free learning experience for everyone. So if you have 10 minutes to spare, we’d be delighted if you could take part and
Please note this will take you out of OpenLearn, we suggest you open this in a new tab by right clicking on the link and choosing ‘Open Link in new Tab’.
This course is also available in Welsh on OpenLearn Cymru.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Tuesday, 21st April 2015
Last updated on: Tuesday, 21st April 2015
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
If you enjoyed this, why not follow a feed to find out when we have new things like it? Choose an RSS feed from the list below. (Don't know what to do with RSS feeds?)
Remember, you can also make your own, personal feed by combining tags from around OpenLearn.