The Pupil Premium Toolkit is to be updated when new research into the effective use of teaching assistants is published early next year.
The toolkit, produced and managed by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Sutton Trust, is based on an analysis of thousands of piece of educational research.
It advises schools on the effectiveness and cost of various strategies for narrowing the attainment gap using Pupil Premium funding.
When it comes to teaching assistants, the toolkit currently states that they prove relatively expensive while adding little if anything to pupils’ expected progress across the course of a year. Overall, it awards two stars out of five for Pupil Premium strategies centred on using teaching assistants.
However, in January the first findings are to be published from seven EEF-commissioned research projects into the deployment of teaching assistants using Pupil Premium funding.
The news comes as the EEF’s Autumn Research Update newsletter emphasised that the current two-star ranking for teaching assistants “masks both positive and negative outcomes”.
It states: “Where positive impacts have been records, often teaching assistants have been training in delivering a specific intervention. One clear implication of this is that schools should think carefully about the deployment, training (both of the teacher and teaching assistant) and evaluation of their teaching assistants if they hope to achieve positive impacts.”
The newsletter urges schools when using teaching assistants to “identify activities where (they) can support learning as opposed to simply keeping children on task”. It also says that proper support and training for teachers and teaching assistants is vital “so that they understand how to work together effectively”.
Training teaching assistants to work with targeted groups of pupils in a specific intervention is also advised, while teachers are warned that they should not reduce their support or input to those pupils being supported by teaching assistants.
Among the seven research projects funded by the EEF, one is focusing on teaching assistants delivering structured literacy interventions, while another is using them for one-to-one targeted numeracy sessions. A third is using teaching assistants for speaking and listening interventions.
The EEF plans to publish independent evaluations of the research projects on its website before updating the toolkit. The newsletter adds: “The toolkit will be updated to incorporate the projects’ findings, with a clear reference on how it contributes to the overall findings in the toolkit.”
Joanna Coates, national officer for UNISON, which represents 111,000 teaching assistants, told SecEd: “We welcome the EEF’s reiteration of the fact that teaching assistants can have a positive impact on children’s learning and attainment.
“While the EEF-Sutton Trust Toolkit explained that the effective deployment of teaching assistants is key to making the most of this important resource, too often this been overlooked by think-tanks and policy-makers who have used the toolkit as a stick with which to beat teaching assistants.
“In a recent survey, UNISON has collected over 750 examples from teaching assistants where they have had a positive impact on attainment. UNISON looks forward to the findings of the EEF’s pilot projects into the impact of teaching assistants and future updates of the toolkit.”
Download the EEF’s Autumn Research Update at http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/uploads/pdf/Schools_Update_Autumn_2013_v4_1.pdf
Details of the EEF-funded research projects can be found at http://bit.ly/185rxrd
The Pupil Premium Toolkit itself can be accessed at http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/