Championing TAs: 20 years of NAPTA

25th September 2023

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the National Association of Professional Teaching Assistants (NAPTA). Since 2003, NAPTA, in partnership with Anspear, has supported over 150,000 Teaching Assistants (TAs) by offering opportunities for their professional growth and improving their practice.

To commemorate this significant milestone, NAPTA and Anspear will join forces to develop a range of resources and products, all aimed at celebrating the invaluable contributions of TAs and advocating for the crucial work they perform.

The “Swiss Army knife” of schools

Over the past 25 years, Teaching Assistants (TAs) have become an integral part of the educational landscape, constituting 28% of the school workforce in England and 35% in primary settings.

However, there remains a lack of consensus and clarity regarding their specific role within the education system. Consequently, some argue that teachers and school leaders often fail to fully recognize and appreciate their contributions, resulting in TAs not being used effectively.

In fact, due to the absence of a clear agreement on the responsibilities of TAs and dwindling resources, schools have increasingly turned to TAs to address a wide range of issues. Their roles now can encompass providing support for mental health and wellbeing, academic and behavioural interventions, parental engagement, administrative assistance, cover teaching, and coordinating logistics. This diverse array of roles has led Dr. Rob Webster of the University of Portsmouth, an expert on TAs, to liken them to the "Swiss Army knife" of schools.

Training for TAs

While there have been some efforts to formalise the role of Teaching Assistants (TAs), such as the TA professional standards and the guidance published by MITA and the EEF on the most effective use of TAs, there is still much work to be done. It is fair to say that TAs, who are entrusted with such a wide range of responsibilities in schools, don't have access to the same breadth of professional frameworks and development opportunities as teachers.

Over the past two decades, NAPTA and Anspear have been dedicated to providing a variety of TA-specific resources and courses, enabling TAs to enhance their professional skills. The Teaching Assistant Development Programme (TADP), employed in numerous schools, serves as a diagnostic tool for TAs to assess their strengths and weaknesses. It also offers personalised course options to address their specific needs. Anspear is also soon to launch a new set of learning pathways tailored to accommodate the diverse requirements of TAs.

Championing the work of TAs

As part of NAPTA's 20th anniversary, both NAPTA and Anspear are conducting a survey for TAs. This survey's aim is to provide a current overview of their experiences and to gain valuable insights into their roles within schools. The survey report will be released in conjunction with National TA Day on 29th September, and our goal is to understand how TAs are being used in schools and continue the conversation within the education community about their often undervalued contributions. Ultimately, we aim to champion and support the invaluable work they do.