Teachers call for inclusive education to improve outcomes for all children

Mencap launches new project and evaluation report findings

  • 70% of schools use teaching assistants (TAs) to support SEN pupils, yet only 5.4% are confident TAs are well informed about the support they need to provide
  • 80% of head teachers and SENCOs pledge to develop action plans to use TAs more effectively

mencap_logoToday sees the launch of Mencap’s Inspired Educators: Maximisng the Impact of Teaching Assistants project, which aims to directly raise awareness of better practices to support the 1.8 million pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in schools, of which 234,000 have a learning disability.

The project is an extension of the charity’s Inspired Educators programme, which was developed after research commissioned by the Department for Education revealed that children who received the most support from TAs made significantly less progress than similar pupils who received less support.

With an aim to create a more inclusive education system to improve outcomes for all children, the project worked with the Institute of Education and six National Teaching Schools to train over 1,500 head teachers, SENCOs and teachers on how to effectively use TAs to support pupils with SEN.

An independent evaluation of the project by Canterbury Christ Church University found that 70% of schools use TAs for general, one-to-one, and group support for children with SEN in class; however, only 5.4% of teaching professionals strongly agreed that TAs are well informed about the support they are expected to provide for pupils with SEN when working inside the classroom.

This must change and schools agree – once they had undertaken Mencap’s training, around 80% of schools agreed that they needed to develop the way TA’s are prepared, communicated with and deployed.

Of the head teachers and SENCOs who attended the seminars, 80% said that they would be developing an action plan to outline how they will use TAs more effectively in the coming school year. They also confirmed that they better understood learning disability, they had acquired more knowledge about SEN and inclusion, and they had a better understanding about the effective use of TAs to work with pupils with SEN.

Helen Dummett, Deputy Vice Principal of West Park Academy, Darlington, undertook an Inspired Educators seminar. She said:

“After the seminar, we re-focussed our attention on ensuring that teachers realise that pupils with SEN are their responsibility, rather than ‘giving them to TAs’. Our SENCO has also shared the outcomes from the seminar with the TAs, which they’ve really taken on board.

“TAs aren’t seen as a pair of eyes but are engaging with the lesson, moving around the groups and supporting differentiation. They have a role from the start to the end of a lesson. As a result teachers are able to plan and teach to individual abilities and the school’s value-added scores have improved and progress for pupils with SEN is outstanding.

“Our TA’s have noted a change in the progress of students. TA’s have a better idea of what they’re doing in lessons and have said that they can see the marked progress on individual students. As behaviour and attendance has improved, parents are starting to feel that their needs are being better supported. It really is an all-in approach to change.”

Kirsty Wilcox, Teaching School Leader of Town End Academy (one of the six National Teaching Schools delivering the project in partnership with Mencap and IOE) said:

“The Inspired Educators project has provided a very difficult message about ensuring that we set up structures that allow staff to perform at a level which helps pupils to achieve their full potential. There is something that everyone can change, no matter what their role is.”

All Teaching School Trainers who attended Mencap’s Inspired Educators seminars, and who delivered INSET sessions throughout their networks, felt that there was a strong need for training amongst all teaching staff.

Meeting this demand, Mencap will work in partnership with the Institute of Education and 15 National Teaching Schools to deliver seminars on the deployment of support staff to more than 600 schools over the course of the coming year, through the new Inspired Educators: Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants project, funded by The Co-Operative.

Sandi Gatt, Mencap’s project manager for the Inspired Educators: Maximising the Impact of Teaching, said:

“Teaching assistants are an important part of the education system, however students with SEN and learning disabilities deserve to be taught by a qualified teacher and included in classroom learning. And teaching professionals agree. They have told us that achieving inclusivity in education has the potential to improve educational outcomes for all children, not just those with SEN and a learning disability.

“The next phase of our work will raise awareness of the need for improved practices and will support schools to think more strategically about the preparation and deployment of their support staff.  We will be focusing on the role of senior leadership in driving a whole-school approach to change. We cannot afford to ignore the difference that practical changes can make in significantly improving the quality of education for all children.”

Rob Webster, researcher at the Institute of Education and lead for Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants (MITA), said: 

“TAs comprise a quarter of the school workforce. It’s inconceivable that school leaders should not consider them in the drive to raise standards and improve inclusive opportunities for students with SEN. Inspired Educators: Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants aims to help school leaders improve outcomes for all pupils by guiding them through a process of rethinking and reforming the use of one of their most valuable resources: teaching assistants.”

Mencap has produced best-practice guidelines on the deployment of TAs: www.mencap.org.uk/inspired-educators

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