The perspectives and experiences of children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools regarding their individual teaching assistant support

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Hayley Frisby
Submitted: June 2016


Over the past twenty years there has been a continuous and significant rise in the number of teaching assistants (TAs) working within English schools and they are increasingly taking on a more pedagogical role, often working with pupils with special educational needs(SEN). A systematic review of the international literature was conducted, exploring the impacts of TA support on pupils’ academic, social and emotional/behavioural outcomes(including 24 papers published between the years 2000 and 2015). Key stakeholders’ views about the impacts of TA support were found to be largely positive, as were evaluations of TA-led targeted academic interventions. A number of quantitative investigations of regular TA support for specific pupils indicated a negative relationship between TA support and pupils’ academic progress. Pupil perspectives regarding their TA support were rarely documented within the literature. A qualitative empirical study was conducted to contribute more of a pupil voice. Ten Year Six pupils with SEN took part in individual semi-structured interviews, discussing their one-to-one TA support. Props(such as a ‘Judge’ figurine)helped to set expectations and reassure participants, whilst a creative, visual activity supported their communication and engagement. Participants’ discussions highlighted that they were almost constantly accompanied by a TA and saw the TA as their ‘teacher’. There was a significant degree of separation from the class teacher and a perception that the TA knew participants better than the teacher did. Pupils had rarely been consulted about their TA support in school. However, great admiration was shown for TAs,who were often considered to epitomise their ideal TA. Participants’ discussions suggested that TAs advocated for pupils and possibly looked beyond theirlabels of SEN. They talked passionately about the emotional support provided by TAs (including building their sense of belonging with in school) and suggested that TAs support more positive interactions with peers.

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