RelevantProfessional Standards for teachingassistants (TAs)
Thisessay will assess the professional standards for teachingassistants (TAs) andhow their professional development roles have evolved as a professiondevelopment through legislation, changes in policies and theories.The goal of education is to meet the needs of various categories oflearners and empower children realize their full potential. In theirwork, Parker, Lee, Gunn, Heardman, Hincks, Pittmand and Townsend(2009), assessed that learning should encourage and support everychild. In order to ensure that this happens in accordance withlegislation, the role of TA has been altered considerably toencompass individuals’ needs in teaching, planning and assessingwithin the school environment.
Initially,TAs weredeployed in schools to support certified teachers with inclusivetasks of engaging and sustaining overall learning by students (Groom,2006:199).In 2002, a national agreement education proposal was signed thatpaved the way for reforms in the school workforce as part of risingworking standard and lessening workload.Accordingto this proposal, the role of TA was to bring distinct contributionto the teaching work in schools. This was to enhance good learningand support education needs for special students as well as reducingteachers’ workload(Walton and Goddard, 2009).There was a significant support in this proposal by the Training anddevelopment Agency (TDA) and DfES (Walton and Goddard, 2009:4). Inpart, the proposal created conditions for TAs and teachers to worktogether effectively as professional teams. According to thisproposal, the TAs were required to have sufficient expertise,knowledge and skills to work as part of professional team. Inaddition, this proposal required that TAs be knowledgeable andskilled in advancing pupils learning. Furthermore, in accordance tothe HTLA 2002 guidelines, TAs were required to undertake furthertraining to attain the required standard status and improve theirskills (Walton and Goddard, 2009:5)
However,the first changes in the roles of TAs arosefrom the CentralAdvisory Council for Education (England), 1967) Plowden Report. Thisreport was compiled by Plowden after analyzing the needs andpossibilities of primary school in which it was recommended that rolelearning be replaced with learning readiness (Corbett, 2000).According to this report, learning in classes was supposed to bestructured in accordance to individuals, groups or classwork with agreat emphasis on individualized learning.
Ina broader sense, Plowden report envisioned a progressive style ofeducation. Progressive learning style in which learning wasstructured in line with developing the cognitive ability of studentsas indicated in Piaget’s theory(Central Advisory Council For Education (England), 1967).Piaget believed in the theory of cognitive development in whichlearning takes place in accordance with child’s experience whileinteracting with the environment (Bentham, 2007:15). By customizingpersonalized learning experiences, TAs were expected to demonstratehigh standards of competence during service provision. By applyingexpertise and skills, the TAs could raise education standards byimplementing the guidelines stated in the National agreement DfES(2003).
Teachingassistants (TAs) were deployed to assist qualified teachers infacilitating effective learning in classes. However, the TAsexpertise and skills were not limited to classrooms as they could betapped to benefit the whole schools and improve overall teaching andlearning. The publication of the Warnock Report (DfES1978), changed the roles of TAs by recommending the incorporation ofmore responsibilities and duties for the TAs tofocus on the needs of special students in schools. The report was asa result of extensive research on special needs for young people anddisabled learners.
TheWarnock Report (DfES1978)recommended that the TAs have more training in order to support thespecial students effectively and as part of professional development(Parker et al., 2009).In this report, teaching assistants (TAs) were required to cooperatewith other teaching professionals for better support to specialstudents (Harris 2007:157Parker et al., 2009).Warnock report supported TAs participation in staff meetings andextensive collaboration with teachers as part of creating a workingculture necessary for improving learning (Groom, 2006:202).Furthermore, the DfES(1978) report recommended that teaching assistants (TAs) be requiredto participate in teachers discussions on teaching strategies.
Morechanges in the roles of TAs occurred after the publication of the2001 Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) thatrequired TAs provide inclusive learning support for students withdisabilities. This report was compiled to help set legal rights forspecial students education needs. In particular, the report advocatedstrategic changes in education to enhance equal opportunity for younglearners and the disabled(Parker et al., 2009).
Accordingto the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA), agenciesdealing with physiotherapy, occupational therapists and hearingspecialist were required to be part of the mainstream education inschools working together with TAs to offer inclusive educationsupport to special students. This support from other professionalstaffs was necessary for facilitating effective learning and breakingdown learning barriers. Furthermore, the recommendation for specialstudents support was essential in ensuring that classroom arrangementwas well arranged and with relevant equipment. As such, the reportfurther recommended school budgets that included relevant materialsrequired to facilitate effective learning for the needy students. This report serves as an important basis that can be used foradvancing TAs skills and knowledge of handling special students.
Latera workforce reform was drawn in 2005 that recommended TAsperformpart of duties done by qualified teachers (Waltonand Goddard, 2009:74).According to this strategy Children workforce strategy, teachers wereto plan, prepare and assess lessons while the TAs taught the classes.Initially, this was not received well by some teachers who felt thatit was difficult to understand such roles. Nonetheless, it was partof opening conversations between teachers and TAs working togetherand as an opportunity for professional development (Parker et al.,2009:18).
Theworkforce reform legislation made it a fundamental role for TAs toengage actively in learning and teaching activities to improveoverall learning and teaching in classes. The TA gained confidenceand support from teachers, and the practice was shared therebyimproving learning and teaching. This created a collaborative spiritbetween TAs and qualified teachers. The TAscould now develop their teaching practices but based on theunderstanding that their role is that of supporting learning andteaching(Walton and Goddard, 2009).However, some teachers proposed that the legislation allowing TAsperform actual teaching services be remodeled to replace teacherswith TAs at lower salaries (Walton and Goddard, 2009:34).
TheChildren workforce strategy had advocated that TAs could developtheir teaching practices but due to inconsistenciesin training the stands of TAs could not be raised to that level. Assuch, in 2006, the Training Development Agency developed a three-yearstrategy through which the TAs could be trained to strengthen skills(Walton and Goddard, 2009). However, support for learners withspecial needs remained the role of support staffs that are lessqualified in teaching. Nonetheless, all children should have adequatetime with teachers even when teaching is on a rotational basis. TheTAs were to helplearners in implementing teachers’ lesson activities such astimetable collect data and monitor students’ performance. However,some teachers are better teaching SEN children or handling specificsubjects. Teaching assistants who are not qualified to teach SEN arerequired to do so under the supervision of qualified teachers (Parkeret al., 2009).
Thedevelopment of TAslegislation and procedures over years supports the currentrequirements for TAs roles. Today TAs are involved in activeroles of ensuring that all children learn well in their classes. Thecurrent roles require TAsto communicateregularly with teachers, parents or guardians on the student’soverall progress and arising issues (Wehmeyer, 2007:115). As such,there has been an increased collaborative role among the teachingprofessionals and other partners in promoting effective learning forevery child (Bentham, 2007: 45).
Inaddition, current roles for TAs requirethem to be versatile, multi-skilled and well trained in order tosuccessfully meet the needs of special students (Armstrong, 2003:58).While performing the supportive tasks TAsarerequired to continuously supporting students’ performance in theirclass assignments even when the supervising teacher is absent(Children’s workforce development council, 2010:23).
Bentham(2007:132) argues that TAsarerequired to be flexible in undertaking duties and schedules thatarise from special students’ needs in different circumstances. Inmost jurisdictions, students’ with special needs have specificprograms and services that aid in effective learning. According tothe department of education, TAsneedsto have effective communication skills to enhance their effectiveengagement with children (Department for Education and Skills 2005:45). The department of education has defined common core set ofvalues designed for TAsinorder to promote equality, respect diversity, reduce stereotype inclasses (Fox, 2007:90).
Learningfor special students requires a focused, well-planned and dedicatedstaffs that are well equipped with important skills and knowledge ofsupporting needy student’s education needs. The role of TAshas undergone extensive changes to incorporate more duties andresponsibilities in addressing the learning needsof every child.Initially, TAs wasdeployed to support certified teachers with inclusive tasks ofengaging and sustaining overall learning for students. Thefirst changes in the roles of TAs arosefrom the CentralAdvisory Council for Education (England), 1967) Plowden Report thatrequired the TAs have advanced skills of handling learners withspecial needs.
Morechanges in the roles of TAs occurred after the publication of the2001 Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) thatdemanded TAs provide inclusive learning support for students withdisabilities. Latera workforce reform was drawn in 2005 that recommended TAsperformpart of duties done by qualified teachers. TodayTAs are involved in activeroles of ensuring that all children learn well in their classes. Therole of TAsin education for special students is thus significant and helpsenhance equality in education. It is thus imperative to have aneducation system that plans and continuously train TAsforoverall quality education equitableness.
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