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teaching assistant

Teaching assistants help teachers with their everyday work. The role is often known by other names, including classroom assistant, non-teaching assistant or learning support assistant.

Teaching assistants usually work with small groups or with individual children. Their duties vary depending on the particular job and the age of the children.

In primary schools their work can include:

  • helping to get the classroom ready for lessons
  • listening to children read, reading to them or telling them stories
  • helping children with number work
  • helping children who need extra support to complete tasks
  • helping with art and craft activities and displaying work
  • looking after children who are upset or have had accidents
  • playing educational games with children and encouraging younger children to learn through play
  • helping with outings and sports events
  • helping with routine administrative tasks .

In secondary schools most teaching assistants work with individuals or small groups of pupils who have disabilities or learning difficulties.

Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs) have more responsibility. Their duties can include:

  • working alongside teachers to support learning activities
  • helping to plan lessons and prepare teaching materials
  • assessing, recording and reporting on the progress of pupils they work with
  • acting as specialist assistants for particular subjects 
  • supervising the class in teachers' absence
  • supervising other support staff.

Hours and Environment

As a teaching assistant you will work during school hours, Monday to Friday during term-time. You may be involved in activities such as staff training and school outings which could involve working extra hours. Many teaching assistants work part-time.

You will mainly work on school premises, either alongside the teacher in the classroom, or with individual pupils or small groups in a separate room.

Skills and Interests

To be a teaching assistant you should:

  • enjoy working with children and be interested in education
  • be able to build good relationships with children, parents and carers, and teachers
  • be able to work well under the supervision of a teacher and enjoy working as part of a team
  • be willing to be flexible and creative
  • have good literacy and numeracy skills 
  • be patient but firm when necessary
  • be able t o manage groups of children and deal with challenging behaviour.

In some jobs it could be useful if you have other skills such as computer literacy or fluency in community languages.

Entry

Entry requirements for teaching assistants vary depending on the school. You can find out about requirements in your local area by looking at job adverts or by speaking to your local education authority.

A useful starting point is to volunteer to help in a local school, perhaps for a few hours a week at first. Most qualifications for teaching assistants are aimed at those who are in paid or voluntary employment in a school, so it is adviseable to gain work experience of some kind. Most schools welcome help with activities such as listening to children read.

You will need to have a police check before you can begin either paid or voluntary work in a school.

When you have gained some experience as a volunteer, you may be able to work towards qualifications which will improve your chances of finding paid employment. Your headteacher will probably be able to advise you on this. You may find that there are some vacancies that you can apply for on the strength of your experience, providing this is extensive enough.

New qualifications in support work in schools are being piloted in some areas. If you have a job such as lunch-time supervisor, school caretaker or school library assistant these could help you to move into work as a teaching assistant. The qualifications are:

  • Level 2  Award and Certificate in Support Work in Schools
  • Level 3 Award, Certificate and Diploma in Support Work in Schools.

Visit the 'Support Staff' section of the Training and Development Agency for Schools website for details (see Further Information below).

You may be able to get into this job through an apprenticeship scheme. Funding for apprenticeships is available for 16-24 year olds and some over-25s. To find out more, visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk. For information about apprenticeships in other parts of the UK, see Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Training

Once you are working as a teaching assistant you can work towards a number of qualifications. In England you will normally do a short, nationally-approved induction training programme. Some local education authorities also have a range of in-house training, some with external qualifications.

Relevant teaching assistant qualifications include:

  • NVQ levels 2 and 3 for Teaching Assistants
  • Level 2 Certificate for Teaching Assistants
  • Level 3 Certificate for Teaching Assistants.

You should be able to get advice from your school on which would be the most appropriate. You will usually need to be working in a school (paid or voluntary) for a set number of hours a week, and may need qualifications such as GCSEs or the equivalent - you should check with colleges for their entry requirements.

As an experienced teaching assistant you may be able to study for a foundation degree. These are available at a number of colleges and universities, and have various titles, such as Teaching and Learning Support and Education Studies for Teaching Assistants.

For information about foundation degrees see Foundation Degree Forward.

To search for colleges and universities offering foundation degrees see Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Visit the 'Support Staff' section of theTraining and Development Agency for Schools website for more information on training and career development for teaching assistants - there is a link to the website in Further Information below.

Opportunities

You can work as a teaching assistant throughout the UK, in:

  • nursery, infant or junior schools
  • special schools
  • mainstream secondary schools
  • independent schools.

Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers, jobcentres, in local authority job bulletins, which are available in libraries and other public offices, and on LGjobs (the recruitment website for local government) - see Further Information below.

When you have experience you may be able to progress to senior assistant in some schools. If you work in England you may be able to take on more responsibility by applying for training and assessment for Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) status. You will need the support of your head teacher or school manager before you can be considered for this. You can get full details of the HLTA programme in your local area from your local authority. Visit the HLTA website for contact details (see link in Further Information below).

You could go on to train as a teacher if you meet the entry requirements which apply to all teachers. You can find out about careers in teaching by looking at the Teacher profiles or visiting the Training and Development Agency for Schools website in Further Information below.

Annual Income

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

There is no national pay scale and wage rates are set by each Local Education Authority. Salaries do differ on a regional basis and some teaching assistants are paid term-time only.

The full-time rate for teaching assistants is likely to be between around £11,000 and around £14,500 a year.
This could increase to around £16,000 a year.
Higher Level Teaching Assistants are likely to be paid between £18,000 and £21,000 a year.

 

 

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The information contained in our Career Profiles Database was correct at time of publishing, but since publication certain details may have changed so please use this section as a research tool and in some cases further research may be required.

Careers Database Information By Learn Direct Advice