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How were Teaching Assistants the hidden heroes of lockdown?


The School Workforce Census reported that in 2019 there were 256,167 full-time equivalent teaching assistants (TAs) in England – an increase of over 1,000 in a year. Over the years more candidates have been attracted to the role due to the rewarding nature of the job, and the global health crisis has acted as a reminder of the brilliant work these TAs do. The importance of these professionals has not gone unrecognised by the Department for Education, which has encouraged schools to bring in TAs where the teaching team were at capacity and in need of their expertise.

Here’s how TAs were the hidden heroes of lockdown and what their support has meant to vulnerable children, keyworker children and other educational staff.

teaching assistant sat with students in classroom

How TAs helped pupils during the lockdown

A National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) survey revealed that during lockdown TAs were making home visits to pupils to deliver school meals, placing check-in calls and assisting with cleaning duties. Quite clearly, TAs were doing whatever needed to be done to ensure the welfare of children learning from home and to maintain a safe learning environment for the 500,000 vulnerable children and three million keyworker children being educated in schools.

Vulnerable children

According to the NFER survey, 86% of secondary teachers and 73% of primary teachers believe a lack of vulnerable pupil engagement in learning is a challenge. This is something TAs have played a major role in during lockdown.

A core responsibility of a TA is to engage disaffected pupils and monitor their progress - something which became both more essential and difficult during the months in lockdown. Since vulnerable children are believed to be particularly at risk of learning loss and losing the motivation to keep on track with their schoolwork, the role of TAs while pupils were learning from home became more important than ever. Additionally, pastoral care and safeguarding have become a core part of the job and this is one of the many ways in which TAs have made a difference.

Keyworker children

As for keyworker children, TAs took on the task of providing on-site education for these pupils, ensuring their emotional welfare and helping pupils to cope with the stress and anxiety they might have experienced knowing their parents were working on the front line. Working alongside teachers and other educational staff, they had the difficult job of explaining to children why they must socially distance from their classmates.

All this was done whilst providing an inclusive learning environment where each student’s learning differences were embraced and supported.

How TAs supported the education system during lockdown 

TAs had a direct impact on teacher wellbeing during the lockdown months - supporting other teachers to deliver high-impact learning and keeping morale high. Without their continued dedication and commitment, both staff and students may well have faced additional learning difficulties and personal challenges. A comprehensive list of everything they’ve done to support the education system would be impossible but here’s an overview of how TAs have made such a huge impact:

- Assisting with online teaching 
- Helping to bridge the education gap
- Supporting SEN schools and departments
- Creating video chats for peer-to-peer interaction
- Enrolling in children’s mental health and domestic violence training

The role of TAs in the coming months

The support from TAs hasn’t stopped there. Schools will continue to rely heavily on TAs in the coming months, whether that means assigning them to ‘bubble groups’ or working with individual pupils. Post-lockdown, TAs will play a crucial role in assisting students with social, emotional and mental health challenges whilst also playing a huge part in helping the education system deliver the highest quality of learning.

Continue making a difference with Teaching Personnel

The continuing of learning during the challenging weeks in lockdown is testament to the brilliant support that TAs have given to both staff and pupils. At Teaching Personnel, we want to ensure that TAs receive the recognition they deserve and have the opportunity to continue doing the work they love. That’s why we created National Teaching Assistants’ Day, which is celebrated on 16th September. We’re passionate about helping teaching assistants develop their careers in education and hope you’ll join us in acknowledging their hard work this September. For more information visit the National Teaching Assistants day website.

Search our latest primary teaching assistant jobs and secondary teaching assistant jobs today or read more about why teachers work with Teaching Personnel.

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