The perspectives and experiences of children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools regarding their individual teaching assistant support (2021)

Author: Hayley Pinkard
Published: 2021
Publication: European Journal of Special Educational Needs

This paper reports a small-scale qualitative research project, carried out in the south of England. Ten children (aged ten-eleven) with a range of SEN, from mainstream primary schools, took part in individual semi-structured interviews about their TA support. Child-friendly interviews utilised toy props and a creative ā€˜Ideal TAā€™ activity to aid communication and engagement. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Participantsā€™ perspectives highlighted the ways in which their TAs had been deployed, which they perceived to enable helpful scaffolding of learning, but also caused a significant degree of separation from teachers. The nurturing characteristics of TAs were appreciated, and the positive impacts of TA support on pupilsā€™ social inclusion and emotional well-being were emphasised.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the European Journal of Special Educational Needs on 20/04/21, available online:

Pinkard, H. (2021) The perspectives and experiences of children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools regarding their individual teaching assistant support. European Journal of Special Educational Needs, 36(2), 248-264. 

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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 pupilsā€™ academic, social and emotional/behavioural outcomes(including 24 papers published between the years 2000 and 2015). Key stakeholdersā€™ 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 pupilsā€™ 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 ā€˜Judgeā€™ figurine)helped to set expectations and reassure participants, whilst a creative, visual activity supported their communication and engagement. Participantsā€™ discussions highlighted that they were almost constantly accompanied by a TA and saw the TA as their ā€˜teacherā€™. 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. Participantsā€™ 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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What factors influence the use of a controlling motivational style in the classroom?

Assignment type:Ā Thesis
Author:Ā Chantelle Nattrass
Submitted:Ā June 2015


Research has suggested that controlling motivational styles in teachers are related to poorer outcomes for pupils (Assor, Kaplan, Kanat-Maymon, & Roth, 2005). It has been suggested that teachers behave in more controlling ways due to ā€˜pressure from aboveā€™ (e.g. from school performance standards), ā€˜pressure from belowā€™ (e.g. from limited pupil engagement), and ā€˜pressure from withinā€™ (e.g. from the teachersā€™ personality traits; Reeve, 2009). The present systematic review analysed 26 papers and confirmed the relevance of these three categories. It was also highlighted that research into pressures from within was inconsistent and largely unreplicated, with the exception of research suggesting that limited self-efficacy was related to increased teacher control.

Whilst a considerable amount of research has been dedicated to control in teachers there has been an absence of literature related the teaching styles utilised by Teaching Assistants (TAs). Recent research into the role of TAs has suggested that pupils can become dependent on the high level of support that TAs provide (Blatchford et al., 2009), and the present study aimed to explore whether such dependency could be due to TAs using a controlling motivational style. The study also investigated whether levels of control were related to self-efficacy as well as anxiety. Participants were established dyads of TAs and pupils with learning difficulties who took part in an etch-a-sketch activity in order to examine their interactions, alongside completing measures of negative affect and self-efficacy. The findings suggested that increased TA control was related to diminished pupil academic self-efficacy, which reinforces the impact the pressures from below can have on teaching style. However teacher self-efficacy and child negative affect were not found to impact on TA control. In addition a relationship was identified between TA autonomy supportive behaviours and the child initiating more problem solving behaviour. This further highlights the importance of supporting TAs to use less controlling teaching approaches in order to improve the outcomes for children with learning difficulties.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology to Explore Young Peoplesā€™ Experiences of SEN Support in a Mainstream School

Assignment type: Research Project (Small Scale Research Project, Year 1)
Authors: Kate Brant, Rosa Gibby-Leversuch, Catherine Goodchild, Cate Mullen and Hanna Kovshoff
Submitted: Spring 2017

The 2015 Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice mandates that pupilsā€™ views on their educational experience should be sought and used to inform practice. Practitioners have responded to this recommendation by actively including pupils in planning meetings for statutory assessments and annual reviews. However, there is no clear process in place to capture the views of pupils with SEN who receive support at school but do not have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or Statement of SEN. Continue reading