chapter  7
26 Pages

Conclusions

In this last chapter of the book, we identify key implications for policy and practice arising from the WPR dimensions. We identify what we feel is a main task for education policy at present: addressing whether TAs should have a pedagogical/instructional role. A concern with paraprofessionals in education touches on a number of fundamental issues in education more broadly and we end the book by addressing implications for several of these: teacher and school effectiveness; the education of pupils with SEN; and also the role of paraprofessionals in public services more generally. Before we proceed with this chapter, it might be helpful to clarify a point that may well have struck some readers. It might be pointed out that, contrary to our findings, there are examples of effective and innovative practice, where TAs can be seen to have a positive effect on pupils’ progress. This would be consistent with the reviews of Alborz et al. (2009) and Slavin et al. (2009). Some authors have argued that, in contrast to the picture identified by the DISS project, they have found a positive picture, and that positive learning outcomes are likely to flow from high levels of preparedness, creative deployment and effective practice by teachers and TAs (e.g. Balshaw 2010). How do we reconcile the two points of view? We do not disagree that a more positive picture can be found in some schools, in line with Balshaw (2010) and the reviews just cited, but we need to point out we did not encounter a lot of the good practice they identify in our extensive visits to schools and our intensive classroom observations. The DISS project surveys were the most comprehensive yet, and so should be taken seriously as a broadly representative picture of the situation in schools at the time of writing. We have no doubt, however, that with the appropriate training, preparation

and collaborative working arrangements in schools, TAs can have a positive effect; it is just that this is not at present typical, and there is still a lot of work needed in order to specify forms of TA preparedness, deployment and practice that work well. In this book, we have reported what was evident under normal circumstances, not what is possible in some schools with training and resources. One main task of this last chapter is to identify ways in which all schools can make the most effective use of TAs.