New professional standards for teaching assistants published

New professional standards for teaching assistants, which were scrapped by the government earlier this year, were brought back to life and published last Friday by a group made up of unions and educational experts.

The new standards, that help clarify the roles of teaching assistants, will bring them into line with their teacher and headteacher colleagues, both of whom already have their own sets of standards.

Originally commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), the teaching assistant standards were drafted by a working group of experts. But then just as they were about to be published, the government changed its mind, and the standards were destined never to appear.

But keen to see the standards published and the professional status of teaching assistants acknowledged, the group – UNISON, school leaders’ union NAHT, the National Education Trust (NET) and Maximising Teaching Assistants – asked the DfE for permission to press ahead.

This permission was granted, but only if the four organisations made clear that this exercise no longer had the blessing of ministers.

Unlike the professional standards for all other groups of education staff, the teaching assistant standards have no legal backing, but the four organisations believe that they help define the role and purpose of teaching assistants. This in turn will help ensure that schools can provide the best possible learning experience for pupils.

UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “Despite the unnecessary government delay, we now have a set of standards that can help teaching assistants feel good about themselves and a valued part of school teams. Lots of effort had gone into shaping these, and it’s good to see them published, rather than languishing unused on a dusty shelf in the Department for Education.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “School leaders will welcome this publication, which helps to clarify and solidify the role of teaching assistants as a profession. Teaching assistants are an increasingly important part of the education workforce when effectively deployed.”

Maximising Teaching Assistants lead Rob Webster said: “These standards will be welcomed by school leaders and teaching assistants alike. Taken together with our evidence-informed guidance, schools now have a comprehensive set of practical frameworks and actionable recommendations for transforming the way teaching assistants are deployed and supported and to help them thrive in their role.”

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