The origins of the Good Practice Guide
In July 1998 the DfEE commissioned the Faculty of Education at the University of Manchester to carry out a research project into the Management. Role and Training of Learning Support Assistants. The final report (Farrell et al. 1999) contained details of the main findings together with a set of indicators and review questions that were intended to be used by staff in schools and LEAs as a development tool to bring about improvements in the work of TAs in schools. The key findings informed the development of the indicators and review questions. Therefore in this part of Chapter 2 we summarise the main findings from the report and in the next we describe how we piloted the indicators and review questions that ultimately have provided the practical examples that make up Section 3 of this book. Many of these findings relate to the work of TAs with children who have special needs and this is mainly because the scope of the research focused on this group. However, as we have stated earlier, TAs work with all children and not just those with disabilities and it is our view that the findings of our study are applicable right across the education spectrum. (Note: as we have adopted the Government's preferred term 'Teaching Assistant', we use this or 'TA' when referring to the report's findings, although the original report refers to learning support assistants, LSAs.)
The qualifications and experience of TAs The findings of our study confirm previous research (e.g. Smith et al. 1999) in respect of the gender, previous work experience and qualifications of TAs. Of the 147 TAs we interviewed, only seven were men. Many lived locally and had school-aged children. Being a TA was a more attractive alternative to working in a shop or a factory because of the school holidays, free weekends and relatively short working day. The vast majority of TAs had no paper qualifications related to working with young people although, as mothers, many had experience of looking after children. A small number of TAs had qualifications in related subjects (e.g. nursing) and a few had psychology degrees. Headteachers stated that when employing TAs they looked for good interpersonal skills and the ability and willingness to work as a team.