Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants

Evaluation Report

Published in: Education Endowment Foundation website (September 2021)

Posted on RAND.org on September 29, 2021

by Sashka Dimova, Andreas Culora, Elena Rosa Brown, Sonia Ilie, Alex Sutherland, Sara Curran

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The Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants (MITA) programme is a whole-school intervention that aims to support improvements to pupil outcomes by improving how teaching assistants (TAs): (i) are deployed in the classroom (ii) are prepared for lessons, and (iii) interact with pupils. The programme was developed by the University College London Institute of Education with support from the London Leadership Strategy.

The MITA programme provides training and support to school staff at three strategic levels over the course of one academic year. Two senior leaders receive four half-day training sessions covering the research on the deployment, preparation, and practice of teaching assistants (TAs), review and action planning, and developing a whole-school improvement plan. Each school has a consultant—an experienced school leader who visits the school between training sessions to support school leaders to identify gaps in current practice and to develop an improvement plan. There are two half-day training sessions for TAs on effective interactions with pupils and on improving independence. Teachers receive one twilight session on planning lessons and organising classrooms with TAs in mind. This version of the programme was evaluated over two years, where the school action plans developed during year one (Phase 1) were fully implemented in year two (Phase 2).

This efficacy trial saw 128 primary schools from four regions engage in a stratified, two-arm, cluster randomised controlled trial. Schools were randomly allocated to either receive MITA or to act as a control group. After randomisation, baseline data was unavailable for four schools, therefore a maximum of 124 schools and 12,598 pupils were available for analysis.

The trial evaluated the impact of this intervention using reading attainment for pupils in Year 3 and Year 6 as a primary outcome. Pupils' maths attainment and engagement with learning as well as changes in TA deployment and preparation were analysed as secondary outcomes. Mixed methods research was undertaken to capture compliance with the programme's main activities, explore barriers and facilitators, and understand practice in control schools. The trial started in December 2016. Training and support was provided to schools in Phase 1 from September 2017 to June 2018, while Phase 2 saw schools beginning to fully implement their plans from September 2018 to June 2019.

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