Higher level teaching assistants are playing an increasingly prominent role in children’s learning, but they need professional development to match their ambitions.
That’s one of the key findings to emerge in a recent survey of 944 HLTAs and TAs across England, which was carried out by the HLTA National Assessment Partnership (HNAP) to canvass views on the HLTA standards related to CPD.
The survey revealed that 46% of HLTAs are undertaking whole class teaching for between a fifth and half of the week, in order to strengthen their schools’ staffing structures. Their enjoyment of this role is matched by their confidence – 90% of HLTAs feel confident in their ability to advance learning when engaged in whole class teaching. They also feel that their schools recognise their strengths and areas for development, and seek to support these.
The survey further showed, reassuringly, that HLTAs get to employ their area of expertise in a way that’s recognised by their school (55%). However, a significant proportion of respondents (60%) felt that their skills could be more effectively deployed in support of both pupils’ learning and the work of other teachers and TAs.
It was clear from the survey that HLTAs receive plenty of professional development in school. Around 70% said they attended INSET training, 55% reported receiving observation and feedback, and around half had participated in training programmes run by external providers. The general view, though, was that there’s more scope to develop their whole class teaching skills; almost half of the HLTA respondents said they didn’t receive feedback concerning this aspect of their work.
As well as giving a voice to HLTAs, the survey results have helped us in the HNAP to gain a better understanding of current practice across schools and other educational settings. Among our recommendations in response to the findings would be for schools to put systems and processes in place for monitoring and evaluating exactly where TAs and HLTAs are in terms of their performance and capability, and relating this to their knowledge, understanding, skills and behaviours.
We would also suggest that schools develop clear plans for helping TAs and HLTAs get to where they need to be, professionally. This could include giving HLTAs and TAs opportunities to network with peers at other schools, enabling them to share good practice. Another recommendation would be to match TA and HLTA development to school needs and priorities.
HLTAs and TAs are already doing great work in our schools, and are being supported in that by committed colleagues. Yet it’s clear from our survey that more can be done to support HLTAs and TAs in being the best they can be.
Dean Boyce is programme director, CPD and accreditation at Best Practice Network – a national training provider that helps to manage HLTA assessment standards – and is a member of HNAP. The full survey results and list of recommendations can be found at hlta.org.uk/hnap_survey_2019