If you like the idea of working in the education sector but are unsure of how and have little experience, being a Teaching Assistant could be the route in. This is a very varied, rewarding job where you can easily make a positive impact and add real value to people’s lives.
What is a Teaching Assistant?
As a Teaching Assistant (TA), you would work in a preschool, nursery or a primary and secondary school helping children with their educational and social needs both inside and outside of the classroom. Effectively you are an extra resource, with the primary role of supporting the children with their learning, and assisting the main teacher. You may also look after those that may require a little more support in completing tasks, those with learning difficulties, behavioural problems, or children where English is not their first language.
A Teaching Assistant is there to support children’s development both academically and personally. You are an extra pair of hands to watch and guide their development and enhance their abilities. A Teaching Assistant is sometimes known as a Teaching Aide or an Education Assistant.
You would work closely with the class teacher who is responsible for the educational needs of the school pupils, taking some of the administration duties away from them. It is important to remember that a Teaching Assistant is not qualified to teach a class. What you do on a day-to-day basis does depend on the level of Teaching Assistant you are and if you are working under a particular specialism. What you can be sure of, is that each day is varied and fulfilling!
Hours of Work
As a Teaching Assistant you will generally be required to work within school hours and terms, so approx. 30-40 hours per week.
- Assist and support the main teacher
- Manage behaviour and resolve issues within a classroom
- Support children’s learning
- Class preparation, set up and tidying up (primary school)
- Listen to children reading
- Work one-on-one with children that may need extra support
- Administrative tasks
- Assisting on day trips/ sports events/ external activities
Key Teaching Assistant Qualifications
Qualifications needed to be a Teaching Assistant varies, as schools often set their own requirements. However regardless of this, you will be required to have a GSCE (or equivalent) in both Maths and English. Any previous experience working with children is certainly advantageous and it is also advisable to get a work placement within a school to bump up your experience when applying for a TA job and establish if this is the role for you before investing further.
Over the last few years becoming a Teaching Assistant has become more and more competitive and the role has evolved, adding more responsibilities to the job role. Whilst some schools will simply require passion and an enjoyment of working with children, others could require a qualification.
There are an abundance of courses you can take before applying for a role, including Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools and Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools. Often these courses (Certificate and Diploma) will require a work placement so ensure you have researched well in advance of applying for a role.
For further information on the types of courses, qualifications and awards available for Teaching Assistants, visit the TAFOCUS website.
Vital Teaching Assistant Skills
- Good communication skills with the ability to have a good rapport with students and teachers
- Organisational skills
- Literacy and numeracy skills
- Creativity and patience
- Leadership skills to manage groups within the classroom
- Understand children’s emotional needs
- Enjoy working with children
What is a Teaching Assistants salary?
Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty…
A starting salary for a Teaching Assistant is £12,000 and up to £17,000. A Higher Level Teaching Assistant can expect circa £21,000.
How to become a Teaching Assistant
- Ensure you have a good base education and at least a GSCE in Maths and English
- Research schools in your local area to see what opportunities they may have
- Alternatively contact your local education authority for a school you may be interested in working for and they can talk you through any requirements/ qualifications you may need as each school is different
- Research and choose a course to complete if is required to do so
- Before working with children, the school will carry out an enhanced background check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
How to develop your Teaching Assistant Career
By working as a Teaching Assistant, you have real scope for career progression. By working as a TA you get real insight into school life, and effectively on the job training. There are several courses available that will broaden your knowledge and qualifications, for example Teaching Assistant: Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools Certificate (RQF), Level 3 which looks at exploring child development, safe guarding and health and safety etc.
The experience you gain from being a Teaching Assistant will open several other doors within the education sector. You could progress your experience to then pursue a career as a Teacher or you can fine-tune your Teaching Assistant role and side step into (SEN) Special Educational Needs TA, who will look after students with special needs or disabilities or take a further qualification and become a Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA), which gives you more responsibility. You could also explore the options of moving up to a Teacher role, which will require further qualifications.
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