Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 34, No. 2, May 2008, 137–150
Over the past 20 years educational policy-making in England has been characterized by increasing levels of political involvement, and the problems of teacher recruitment and retention, are likely to impact on the ability of the profession to implement these reforms.
Problems of teacher were recruitment and retention were: leaving the profession because of workload: non-teaching activities taking over 30% of a teacher’s working week; poor work/life balance; 45% of teachers due to retire in less than 15 years’ time; 30% of teachers leaving in their first five years; significant teacher shortages in a number of key subjects; limited development and professional support for adults other than teachers.
UK Government legislation (DfES 2002, 2003) focused on remodeling the workforce as teacher assistants. Teacher assistants would decrease pupil-adult ratio, support would be beneficial when teacher assistant would undertake specific training.
Empirical research was conducted using both quantitative and qualitative methods, and took the form of questionnaires, interviews, focus groups and the analysis of respondents’ projects from the development program..
The questionnaire aimed to gather information on the current organizational policies and practices in using teaching assistants in Surrey schools. The purpose of the interviews was to follow up issues that were indicated on the questionnaires and gather more in-depth, qualitative information. Focus group discussions were conducted. Interestingly, these groups included six teaching assistants. Finally, participants were expected to carry out a short investigation into a relevant teacher/teaching assistant issue in their school between day two and day three of the NPfL program.
An important issue arising from this research involves the development of training programs with working with teaching assistants into all programs of initial teacher training; the need for joint training of teachers and their teaching-assistants to develop team working skills and the need to share good practice from primary and special schools across into the secondary sector. Issues of pay are added issues. The problems of needs and aspirations of teaching assistants and teachers will have to be solved, so that the relations between teacher and teaching-assistant, is a hierarchical one or a genuine partnership between two equal adults in the classroom.