UK: Education support personnel crucial for quality education

published 29 February 2016 updated 8 March 2016

The idea of schools as a communities that support the whole child is reaffirmed as study after study continue to highlight the importance of education support personnel in boosting learning outcomes for students.

Research funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) showed that students make an additional two to four months’ progress when they receive structured, high-quality support from Education Support Personnel (ESP) either on their own or in small groups.

Numbers cut

The EEF research reveals that UK schools spend £4 billion a year – or 10 percent of the total education budget – on 24,000 teaching assistants (TAs), who can be considered ESP and have traditionally been used in classrooms as substitute teachers for low-attaining students.

The EEF is a charitable foundation aiming to develop initiatives to raise the attainment of the poorest students in the most challenging schools. In the past five years, it has commissioned evaluations of six TA-led interventions, with more than 2,000 children in just under 150 schools.

If some school leaders have cut back on TAs numbers on the basis of previous research raising doubts about the real impact of TAs on students’ learning achievements and alledging that students with TA support made less progress than children of similar ability, who received little or no help, the EEF research clearly demonstrates that there is compelling evidence that should help shape the way TAs are used in schools to ensure they improve students’ results.

EI: Invest in quality education

“This research contributes to answering a critical question: do the billions invested in education support personnel make a real difference? The answer according to the EEF is yes, supporting one of our key demand to governments worldwide: invest in quality education!” said Education International’s General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.

Used in a focused way, ESP can have a great impact on students’ outcomes and greatly contribute to obtaining quality teaching and learning environments and achieving quality education for all, he added.