A group of trade unions has published a set of professional standards for teaching assistants that was proposed by the government earlier this year.

The Department for Education (DfE) initially commissioned the educational guidelines drafted by experts in the field, but the government decided to halt proceedings just before the standards were released.

Public service union UNISON, headmasters’ union NAHT, the National Education Trust (NET) and Maximising Teaching Assistants (MTA) all contributed to the revival of the document.

According to UNISON, the standards which were published last Friday will help teaching assistants to clarify exactly what their role entails. Similarly, headteachers and all other teachers must abide by a set of standards which outline their role. Because of this, many working in the education sector see this standardisation as a way to give teaching assistants the same merit and acknowledgement that teachers receive.

UNISON head of education Jon Richards said this regarding the matter:

“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.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the headteachers’ 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.”

The most salient difference between the standards for teaching assistants and the standards for ordinary teachers is that for the former they are not mandatory to but for the latter they are. The HLTA’s must still be abided to by teaching assistants, but they do not outline the specific duties of teachers assuming temporary roles with other teachers.

The documentation refers to itself as ‘advice’ for the teaching assistants and employers. It states that ‘the main purpose of these standards is to raise the status and professionalism of teaching assistants and to position their role within a community of professionals’.

Whilst the ‘advice’ claims that it promotes the status of teaching assistants, it could only have a slight affect on their reverence as it just briefly outlines over 10 pages how to conduct themselves in order to be taken seriously, how to frame their own knowledge and how to ‘work with others’.

It is more of a guide on how to adjust to a classroom context and play an ancillary role to the teacher in charge. The document does however address this by stating that these rules are ‘generic’ and should not be used as a ‘check list’ for teaching assistants and employers.

It should only be used as a basic framework to give teaching assistants a better idea when going into the job of how to get the best out of their students.