If I were to go onto the popular online job search engine SEEK and plug in the terms ‘teaching aides & special needs’ I would get an immediate response. An immediate response of 97 available positions right at my fingertips. And get this – those 97 results were from August ALONE. Now that’s something to think about, wouldn’t you agree?

Australia-wide there is a huge appreciation for the work teacher aides and teacher assistants do for schools, especially their involvement with special needs students. The one-on-one attention teaching assistants provide for students is a valuable source of support. However, there is growing frustration with the lack of resourcing – little aide assistance, inadequate facilities and scarce funding – in Australian schools. The limited aide support, which has such positive influences on both the students with special needs and their teachers, is a result of schools having to juggle budgets to provide for the needs of all students and all faculties. In such a competitive environment, teacher aides are assigned to classroom subjects and PE becomes the Cinderella of the curriculum and is not given support time. Does this mean physical education lessons are not valuable enough to warrant their presence?

Organizations such as the Australian Association of Special Education (AASE) believe that it isn’t appropriate to develop educational models for students with special requirements that primarily depend on assistance and support from teacher aides. Giangreco and Broer (2005) suggest alternative models that instead focus on involving special educators and teacher aides as additional tools for student learning and development, rather than being the primary providers of such programs. Teacher aides are not intended to take complete responsibility for the education of all special needs students, and inclusion must still remain an important factor in general lesson structure and preparation. Just as teacher aides should be a support for the teacher – not a substitute for teachers, associated pedagogies and inclusive practices.

Have a read and answer the poll below – Should teacher aides be regarded as additional support? Or form the backbone of special needs education?