In United Kingdom and Europe, the adults and volunteers working around the school, paid or not, have various names: learning support assistant, classroom assistant, special needs assistant, but the most common term is the one of teaching assistant. The teaching assistants are very important in primary schools, so much that at the moment it is nearly impossible to imagine things running as efficiently as they do, without the help of the teaching assistants. In the present there is a big deficit in the number of teachers available in primary schools, especially in the number of men working close to children of a young age.
Skilled teaching assistants bring a very valuable contribution to pupils achievements within the learning environment, but their main purpose states from their name, as the term of ‘teaching assistant’ indicates their role of supporting the teacher and working under his guidance. This is done by supporting pupils during the teaching of the curriculum . Teacher assistants support the pupils by understanding their learning support needs. In order to do that, the teaching assistant needs to listen to the children, respect and value them.
They will gain the sense of independence, with the help of the school staff, especially those working close to them, such as teacher or teaching assistant. The teaching assistant has to enable the pupils access to the curriculum at all times and to encourage them by using plenty of praise and rewards. Also, every pupil must participate fully in every lesson, and the teaching assistant must ensure that, by reminding pupils of teaching points made by the teacher, and also by organising them in appropriate play activities or games.
Younger pupils should be encouraged to take turns and speak and to follow simple written instructions. The teaching assistant has to encourage the children to use the school library at all the time and also to use spelling aids, when necessary. All of these will encourage the pupils to gain the sense of independence and to develop their independent learning. The teaching assistant needs to ensure that the children knows, understands and applies class and school rules. The younger pupils should be able to make choices on their own about the books and to be able to select resources independently.
Older pupils should be encouraged to develop their skills and to work independently when the case, to manage own reading book and help keeping reading record up to date. The teaching assistant must help the pupils work cooperatively and encourage them to use the library independently. Children should learn to use information from various sources and include references and to complete all tasks set in a given time. The teaching assistant must make sure that all the pupils have access to information from artefacts, charts, diagrams, and that they are able to organise and keep tidy their own work.
The teaching assistant must provide support for the teacher, as stated from the term itself. The teacher takes full responsibility for the interactions that take place between pupils and the helping staff. The teaching assistant needs to provide general classroom help, including preparations of rooms, materials and equipment. The pupils need to be supervised by the teaching assistant and by the teacher, working together, as a team. Also, the teaching assistant needs to assist in monitoring the pupils progress as required by the school and in the production of teaching aids and preparation of work for pupils.