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Learning support assistants

Learning support assistants

Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) are an invaluable resource in our education settings. From dealing with and managing challenging behaviour, to working with specific needs and barriers to learning, the LSA can be the connecting bridge between the child and their learning.

There is a wealth of both information and resources available to support the most effective use of LSAs - most notably in the Education Endowment Foundation's (EEF) 'Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants: Guidance Report' and accompanying free online training programme.

EEF: Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants

The report calls on teachers and school leaders to make more effective use of their teaching assistants (TAs) and offers seven practical tips for maximising the impact they have on the attainment of pupils.

Previous research had shown that in many English schools teaching assistants are not being used in ways that improve pupil outcomes. However, research funded by the EEF demonstrates that when they are well trained and used in structured settings with high-quality support and training, they can boost learning by as much as an extra term.

'Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants', by Jonathan Sharples (Institute for Effective Education and EEF), Rob Webster (UCL Institute of Education) and Peter Blatchford (UCL Institute of Education), urges school leaders and teachers to strongly consider these seven evidence-based recommendations:

  1. Teaching assistants should not be used as substitute teachers for low-attaining pupils
  2. Use teaching assistants to add value to what teachers do, not replace them
  3. Use teaching assistants to help pupils develop independent study skills and manage their own learning
  4. Ensure teaching assistants are fully prepared for their role in the classroom through out of class liaison with teachers
  5. Use teaching assistants to deliver high-quality one-to-one and small group support using structured interventions
  6. Adopt evidence-based interventions to support teaching assistants in their small group and one-to-one instruction
  7. It is important that what students learn from teaching assistants complements what they are being taught in the classroom

Rob Webster of the Institute of Education says:

"Our extensive research and on-going work with schools shows that making best use of teaching assistants is a school leadership issue. School leaders need to put pupils' needs at the heart of a review of current practice and to think through ways of strategically deploying teaching assistants across the school to ensure pupils receive the best possible educational experience. Teaching assistants should play an integral part in the drive to improve pupil achievement."

More information

  • Download the full EEF 'Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants: Guidance Report'
  • Gain a clear understanding of the TA guidance, and how to make change happen in your school by completing the EEF's free online 'on-demand' course Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants
  • The Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants web page from Education Endowment Foundation provides links to the guidance report and online course, plus a summary of recommendations poster, other reports and additional tools and resources:
    • Ten reasons to improve the use of TAs: A poster on the importance of improving the use of Teaching Assistants
    • Teacher-TA agreement template: Support staff to develop and specify their coordinated, but differentiated, roles during lessons
    • Scaffolding framework: Help TAs scaffold pupils' learning and encourage independent learning
    • Interventions health check: Consider how TA-led interventions are being delivered in your school in line with the research
    • Evidence-based TA-led literacy and numeracy interventions: Adopt evidence-based TA-led interventions that have previously been shown to impact positively on pupil attainment
    • 'Acting on the evidence' process: Refer to this school improvement cycle to manage changes in TA deployment and use. Contains key principles to support successful implementation
    • Visioning exercise: Create a clear vision for your TA workforce. Define what great TA deployment and practice will look like in your school
    • Self Assessment Guide: Assess current practice and monitor progress against the report's recommendations
    • TA observation schedule: Collect data to aid your understanding of how TAs are deployed in classrooms across the school
    • Action planning template: Structure your thinking around reframing the use of TAs, and develop action plan points to realise your vision
    • TA policy template: Create a policy articulating a shared understanding of TA deployment, use and training in your school

LSAs and Interventions

Many schools use LSA-led interventions to help pupils to 'catch-up'.