04 SES 08 A, Collaborative Teaching I
Parallel Paper Session
This paper draws from a study of the impact of training for teaching assistants (TAs), additional adults deployed to support children and teachers, in one urban local educational authority (LA) in England. The objectives of the study, commissioned by the LA, were: to identify training an professional development for TAs, barriers and its impact on children’s achievement so as to inform future strategy for the content and delivery of continuing professional development for TAs. In this paper we focus on how best to define development in relation to training, condition of employment and career progression.
Compared to three decades of ad hoc responses to the professionalisation of the school support workforce, a more systematic approach to develop a trained, qualified and efficient workforce was tackled by the remodelling of the school workforce agenda (DfES, 2002). Also known as the modernisation agenda, the remodelling of the workforce acknowledged the important and positive role TAs played in supporting the school, the children, the teachers and the curriculum. Despite some initial efforts in providing a national scheme for training and accreditation (TDA, 2005), both policy and practice have been somehow uncoordinated, lacking a national unity and systematic effort in delineating what it is that TAs should do, and the present austerity regime. As a result, training for TAs is still geared mainly to respond to schools and local needs, the shifting and changing of schools’ structure, local authority and national policies and budgets (Authors, 2010; Cajkler et al, 2007).
Recently, more studies have focused on the nature and impact of training for TAs with mixed and inconclusive results. Based on data from a survey of all TAs employed in the local authority and interviews with TAs and CPD managers, in this paper we argue that the major barrier to providing effective training resides in the ideology that equates training to ‘skilling up’ and thus reifies two assumptions about TAs. The first is that TAs are empty vessels to be filled with skills rather than knowledge, thus to be trained rather than educated; and the second is that TAs are second class professionals whose role, despite much evidence, is still that of caring. In arguing so, we provide a framework of analysis based on the capability approach and the human development paradigm. As advanced by Sen (1999), the aim of development is that of broadening the ‘real’ freedoms people have to do and be what they have reasons to value. In examining the evidence, it is clear that neither TAs nor their managers enjoy the freedom to pursue what is that they have reasons to value as effective training and worthwhile employment conditions. This shift of perspective leads us to argue that while training and skilling can be acknowledged as leading to gaining valuable functionings, that is the beings and doings that TAs value, it is the capability to be educated that would free them to become valued and effective members of the school workforce.
Authors (2011) Upskilling and de-skilling: the blurred boundaries of Higher Level Teaching Assistants’ roles and responsibilities. Paper presented at ECER, Berlin, Freie Universitat, 12-16 September 2011. Authors (2010) Research into the Use, Deployment and Perceived Impact of HLTAs in Maintained Schools in Leicester City. Northampton, Centre for Special Needs Education Research (CeSNER), University of Northampton. Blatchford, P. et al (2009). The deployment and impact of support staff in schools: Characteristics, working conditions, job satisfaction and impact of workforce remodelling. Report on findings from the three national questionnaire surveys of schools, support staff and teachers. (Strand 1 Waves 1–3 – 2004, 2006 and 2008), London: DCSF. Cajkler W., et al (2007) A systematic literature review on how training and professional development activities impact on teaching assistants’ classroom practice (1988–2006), London: Institute of Education. Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2002) Developing the role of school support staff. London: DfES. Greene, J. C. (2005) The generative potential of mixed methods inquiry. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 28, 207 — 211. Howes, A. et al, (2003) The impact of paid adult support on the participation and learning of pupils in mainstream schools. London: Institute of Education, Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre. Pedder, D. et al. (2008) Schools and continuing professional development (CPD) in England - State of the Nation research project, London: TDA. Training and Development Agency (TDA) (2005) Building the school team: our plans for support staff training and development: 2005-06. London: TDA. Sen, A. (1999) Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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