Support Staff: Talking to AITSL about their crucial, collaborative roles

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has heard from IEU members about the most effective use of teaching assistants.

In online forums on 19 and 20 February teachers and teaching assistants provided feedback to help AITSL develop guidelines to support the optimal deployment of teaching assistants as part of Action 21 of the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan (NTWAP): Identify the most effective use of initial teacher education (ITE) students, teaching assistants and other non-teaching staff.

AITSL was keen to hear about what does and doesn’t work for teaching assistants in order to be inclusive and collaborative as they establish the guidelines.

Teachers’ ranks have grown by 62 per cent since 1990, the number of teacher assistants has risen by nearly 300 per cent and there are now more than 105,000 teacher assistants employed in Australian schools, most of them women aged in their mid-40s with a Certificate III or Certificate IV being the most common form of training reported.

AITSL sought input on training, work practices and work that reduces teacher workloads, details of timetabling and work tasks, clarity of teacher assistant roles and relevant training.

IEUA NSW/ACT members who responded to AITSL’s survey indicated appropriate paid planning time to allow collaboration and effective feedback between teachers and teaching assistants would be highly beneficial, as the current ad hoc approach reduces the effectiveness of in class support. The right timely professional learning that allows teaching assistants to develop specific skills or program knowledge was also seen as desirable.

Asked to contribute at short notice, IEU members made a strong impact in the online forum.

“IEU members are always so impressive in the way they understand and can articulate the issues,” said IEUA Assistant Secretary Veronica Yewdall, in thanking participants for their involvement. “We are extremely grateful that you were able to share your expertise and give of your time to communicate such important messages so clearly.”

The NTWAP was developed to address the national issue of teacher workforce shortages. It was developed following consultation with unions, principals’ associations and other education stakeholders in 2022.

The IEU’s Federal Branch consulted with state branches to ensure all relevant cohorts were well represented at the online forum.

The IEU will continue to ensure our members’ voices are heard in such forums which will help shape education policy, and therefore working conditions for all employees long into the future.

Will Brodie Journalist IEU VicTas
Pat Devery Professional Engagement Coordinator