2 Contribution and roles
Hilary Cremin et al. (2003), in their evaluation of the ways in which teachers and teaching assistants can work together in teams, suggest that, while there is enthusiasm for additional support, little attention is given to how this actually works in classrooms. It is true that learning support staff have been introduced into classrooms without clear research evidence that they can make a difference to children’s learning, but then life often moves faster than the supply of research evidence.
As we have indicated, volunteers are often invited into schools to assist teachers, and teaching assistants are employed without necessarily having any specific training (although, increasingly, in-service training is being made available). However, as we have suggested, volunteers and teaching assistants often have relevant informal experience, transferable abilities and intuitive skills that can support the work they do in schools. Furthermore, common sense suggests that, when large classes of children have access to additional adults who wish to help and support them, this will have a favourable impact on their learning and development. For instance, in a similar way, many schools actively encourage parental involvement in children’s homework.