Education Assistant's Role in Education

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Significant reforms have been made to the education system due to the demands of a fast changing and increasingly competitive global economy. The need to provide quality education that maximizes the potential of every child and raise standards of pupil performance has increased the demand for education assistants and broadened the range of responsibilities they perform. In the past, an education assistant’s role involved preparing materials for the classroom, childcare and pastoral care. However in today’s teaching environment, an education assistant is also required to support students with special needs, implement lesson plans, assess pupil progress, manage challenging behaviours and much more. It is important to note that many of these challenging responsibilities vary and would depend on the requirements of individual schools and classes. Accordingly, Kay (2005) states that an education assistant can only be successful in their role if they understand and clarify their individual responsibilities as they move from class to class. The essay discusses the importance of the role of an education assistant and the challenges they face. It also explores the skills they require to not only problem solve issues faced in the position but to achieve success in their roles.

Education assistants play an important role in providing support for the student, teacher, curriculum and the school (Morgan, 2007). The Centre for Educational Needs, at the University of Manchester, (DfEE 1999), states that education assistants play the most important role in providing support to students with learning delays and special needs who might otherwise find it difficult to perform the tasks requested of them. Educational assistants work with these students on an individual basis or in small groups. The targeted help provided can range from assisting pupils with social skills, staying on task, understanding complex instructions, to assisting a student with physical mobility and emotional and behavioural difficulties (Morgan, 2007).

Educational assistants allow teachers to concentrate on their core teaching role in the classroom and enable them to manage their own diverse workloads (Tyrer, Gunn, Lee, Parker, Pittman and Townsend, 2004). They may help implement lesson plans and observe how pupils perform, assess and evaluate progress and provide feedback to teachers (Kay 2005). Their organisational responsibilities include maintaining resources and equipment and ensuring that the classroom is clean, organized and equipped (Kay, 2005).

It is important for education assistants to be familiar with the National Curriculum and associated literacy and numeracy frameworks so that they can help simplify and deliver what is being taught in the classroom to students with differing abilities under the supervision of the class teacher (Morgan, 2007). Once these students have grasped key concepts by working in a smaller group, the education assistant helps to intergrate them back into the mainstream curriculum. Lessons can be delivered in a variety of ways, for example innovative computer software packages can help students with particular difficulties such as dyslexia (Kay, 2005). Education assistants will have to familiarise themselves with these packages and have the knowledge to operate them.

An education assistant’s role in supporting the school includes communicating and working collaboratively as a team to provide a safe and secure learning environment for all students and to promote the school’s ethos (Morgan, 2007). Education assistants play a critical role in working with parents, teachers and external professionals, ensuring that the student receives the best quality assistance and guidance (Richards, Armstrong, 2008). For some students, the input provided by external specialists is crucial and the education assistant can play an important role in liaising and supporting their work. The educational assistant is in a unique position to...
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