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Concerning trend: schools cutting teaching assistants

Teaching assistant helping child
Teaching assistants play a crucial role in primary schools, providing essential support to both students and teachers. However, recent cuts in TA numbers threaten the quality of education. Matt Revill, primary school teacher, explains in this week's blog why TAs are indispensable and what we can do to ensure they remain a vital part of our classrooms.

Picture this: a bustling primary classroom filled with eager young learners. The teacher expertly guides a phonics lesson, while a friendly face assists a small group struggling with a tricky part of the lesson. This dedicated individual is a teaching assistant (TA), and their role is vital to a thriving primary school environment. Having worked in primary schools for over 20 years and starting my career myself as a TA, I simply cannot imagine what the classroom would be like without these essential adults.

The concerning trend

Recent news paints a worrying picture. A report by the Sutton Trust, highlighted in Schools Week, reveals that 75% of primary schools have cut teaching assistant numbers. With rising workloads and an increasing need for individualised support, this trend raises a crucial question: can primary schools truly function effectively without their TAs?

Beyond the numbers: the impact of cuts

Teaching assistants are the backbone of many primary classrooms. They provide one-on-one support to students who need it most, from those with special educational needs to those needing a little extra help grasping a new concept. TAs free up teachers' time, allowing them to plan engaging lessons and cater to diverse learning styles. They also support children emotionally and behaviourally, offering a chat or a much-needed break when necessary.

Many modern curriculum approaches, such as approved phonics schemes, require more than just a teacher to deliver effectively. As a primary school headteacher, I find it hard to imagine how schools can function properly and effectively if this vital human resource continues to diminish.

Why are schools reducing TAs?

The reasons behind the cuts are complex, often stemming from budget constraints and rising costs. When trying to balance the books, headteachers prioritise staffing as the main investment in supporting children. However, with increasing wages, skyrocketing utility bills, and decreasing budgets, the only cut left to make is often to the staffing budget. The potential consequences are clear: a decline in the quality of education for our youngest learners.

What can be done?

Here are some potential solutions to address this issue:

  • Highlight the value
    Schools, parents, and the wider community need to come together to advocate for the crucial role TAs play in education.
  • Explore funding solutions
    Innovative funding models should be explored to ensure primary schools have the resources they need to retain and invest in their TA workforce.
  • Appreciate the team
    Recognising the vital contribution of TAs and fostering a collaborative school environment where teachers and TAs work together to support all students.
  • Support the work of schools
    Offer to support the school through fundraising initiatives, helping out at events, or even giving an hour or two to support in the classroom. Schools will never turn down the help of an adult offering to read with children!

Beyond the classroom: investing in the future

Teaching assistants are far more than just classroom helpers. They are passionate individuals who play a fundamental role in shaping young minds. The powers that be, who set school budgets, need to realise that TAs are an essential part of schools without which our children will not achieve their full potential. Let's work together to ensure they have the resources and support they need to flourish in our primary schools. Ultimately, by investing in TAs, we're investing in the future of education for our children.


Matt Revill is a primary school headteacher with over 20 years experience of working in schools. He has worked in a range of settings and currently works within a multi-academy trust of 14 schools. In his free time, he enjoys reading, computing, holidaying and spending time with his family and friends. Matt has a son who is currently working his way through A-levels at college.

Matt Revill photo