Why are TAs not treated with the same respect?

11 December 2023
Teacher being supportive of a student

Why is it that TAs are not treated with the same level of respect as classroom teachers? (Simon, Primary Year 5)

Behaviour is a collective responsibility

This is a challenge we come across regularly. The issue can stem from the fact that there is a perceived hierarchy rather than an imposed one within the classroom. If every adult is not given the same level of respect, then it’s our responsibility as adults to find out why and put steps in place to shift that mindset. The responsibility shouldn’t just sit on one person’s shoulders, it is a collective effort.

Interestingly, some of the most skilled, knowledgeable, and caring educators that we've met in schools haven’t been teachers at all – they’ve been teaching assistants or 1 to 1 support assistants.

We regularly find that the very best TAs/LSAs have got behaviour management nailed.

Scripted response

The reality is that CYP don’t much care for job titles or status. They just want to know another human being is by their side letting them know that “we’ve got this”.  That said, there will be times that young people do push the boundaries, testing with a “you’re not a teacher, you can’t tell me…”.  This can quickly feel like a lack of respect.

It is important to note though that this is less about disrespect and more about a young person pushing boundaries. A quick scripted response like “You’re right, I’m not, but I care about you just as much, we have agreed (X behaviour) and these are still my expectations for you. Thank you for doing the right thing”. Responses like this show young people that you are not fazed by their efforts to subvert the narrative. The expectations should be exactly the same regardless of job title.

Cultivating a supportive classroom culture

In our experience, the best way forward is to make the time for class teachers and assistant/s to sit and discuss what you collectively want the classroom culture to be and how you want to manage your classroom – come to a universal agreement on those audible and visible consistencies. You are fellow professionals and should be working alongside each other to present a united front.

As a TA, if you feel that lack of respect, we suggest you talk to your teacher colleague about it and say, ‘I really want to have ownership over challenging behaviour. I want to take the lead when faced with issues. Please can you support me.’

As the Class Teacher, what are you proactively doing to ensure any Assistant is fully aware of your expectations as well as reassurances given, they are part of the inclusive team dynamic?

Support is not about doing things for someone else; it’s about creating an environment, providing a toolkit, and encouraging people to do things confidently for themselves.

For more information on the Classroom Culture train the trainer programme, our Hearts & Minds INSET, or how your school can get a Behaviour Health Check, go to our Classroom Culture programme page and fill in the consultation form.

For more answers to your questions see our Q&A introduction page.

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