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Why National Teaching Assistant Day 2021 is Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of Lockdown

Why National Teaching Assistant Day 2021 is Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of Lockdown

Date posted : 01 July 2021

At the height of the third national lockdown, the UCL Institute of Education conducted a study on the impact of teaching assistants in keeping schools open for the children of key workers. This research found that 88% of teaching assistants worked in person with vulnerable and key worker children in schools, despite feeling considerably exposed to Covid themselves.


As the study’s authors remarked, we should view teaching assistants as the true “unsung heroes” of the pandemic. They deserve a big salute for their indefatigable efforts to support schools and pupils through their hardest period in living memory.


At Teaching Personnel, we have always championed teaching assistants and the work that they do. Every year, we place thousands of teaching assistants in valuable roles at primarysecondary and special needs schools across the country. But we think TAs deserve more.


Teaching Personnel is proud to have organised National Teaching Assistants Day on 16 September every year since 2012. For 2021, we will be showing our appreciation for the indispensable work by teaching assistants to keep UK education running over all three lockdowns. Let’s look at a few of the reasons from the last 18 months alone for why teaching assistants deserve a day all of their own.

Teaching assistants kept kids fed

The work that TAs have done to support kids through lockdown extends far beyond teaching the curriculum. A National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) survey conducted during the first lockdown found that TAs were regularly making home visits to pupils to deliver school meals, placing check-in calls and assisting with cleaning duties.


Quite clearly, teaching assistants were doing whatever had 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.

Teaching assistants took on big challenges

The UCL IOE study found that over half of teaching assistants had been required to manage a class or bubble on their own. Nearly a quarter reported taking on new responsibilities without receiving any training.


Being thrown in at the deep end at your job is daunting enough at the best of times. When the educational success of pupils during an unprecedented crisis is at stake, teaching assistants’ endeavours are all the more impressive.

Teaching assistants offered targeted support to struggling kids

One of a TA’s core responsibilities lies in engaging vulnerable, disengaged pupils and monitoring their progress. 86% of secondary teachers and 73% of primary teachers say that getting vulnerable pupils engaged in learning is a big challenge. This is the backdrop against which we went into our successive lockdowns.


The pandemic has only made life much more difficult for thousands of such children and their families. Researchers from Cardiff University have observed a particularly pronounced negative impact on the mental health of vulnerable children. Mental health issues among children are strongly linked to conduct disorder and challenging behaviours, with a very distinct correlation between anxiety and absenteeism.


Teaching assistants worked in this context to deliver targeted, in-person support to children suffering serious distress. One school leader in the NFER survey described the work of TAs here as ‘invaluable’. Their efforts have made a big difference in combating learning loss and preventing some of the most disadvantaged children from falling out of education altogether.

Teaching assistants helped with remote learning

Away from the classroom, teaching assistants made a huge contribution in helping pupils learn effectively at home during periods of lockdown. The UCL IOE study found that TAs were engaged in a ‘diverse’ set of tasks to support online learning, including preparing learning packs, marking homework and creating video resources.


In short, teaching assistants strained every sinew to provide inclusive online educational environments where each student’s learning differences could be accommodated.

TAs still don't feel their contributions have been recognised

It feels reasonable to assume that a lot of schools would have run into very severe difficulties without the work of their TAs. However, only 27% of TAs in the UCL IOE study felt that their own school had become more aware of the value of the work they do in supporting pupils and families.


It is simply unconscionable that such critical work should go so unrecognised. That’s why National Teaching Assistants’ Day has never been more important than in 2021. On 16 September, we will be leading schools across the nation in a big party to mark the quiet diligence and dedication shown by TAs everywhere.


But we won’t just be looking backwards. National Teaching Assistants’ Day is a reminder of how central TAs will be to schools’ efforts to get pupils back on track over the coming months. Whether they’re preparing lesson resources, working to build emotional resilience among pupils or intervening directly to help children deal with mental health difficulties, teaching assistants will be at the forefront of the recovery to come. Let’s make sure they know how much it matters.


For more information on how your school can get involved in the celebrations, visit the National Teaching Assistants day website.


If you’re a teaching assistant looking for work, check out our latest primary teaching assistant jobssecondary teaching assistant jobs and special needs teaching assistant jobs today.

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