Welcome! If you’ve stumbled across this website, you’re either interested in becoming a Teaching Assistant (TA) at some level or you want to know more about what they do. Either way, you’ll be able to find a raft of free information here.
For the last ten or so years, TAs (also known as learning assistants and special educations needs assistants) have played a pivotal role in ensuring children with learning difficulties in mainstream education are supported. Learning difficulties can include a whole spectrum of issues from autism, problems learning to read and write, behavioural issues or simply assisting children whose first language is not English.
The role can include helping to get lessons started, supervising various activities or helping the teacher prepare lessons and supervising larger groups.
Originally, the TA’s role was predominantly to help the teacher in basic ways, but the role has expanded over the years and many TAs specialise in other areas of support. For example, some TAs may specialise in languages and physical and/or learning difficulties.
It is possible to become SEN (special education needs) qualified, which enables TAs to prepare and deal with difficult situations in the classroom which teachers would otherwise need to deal with.
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Summary of a Teaching Assistant
|Hours per week||30 – 40|
|Qualifications required?||Not always, but useful|
|Starting salary||£12,000 +|
|How to apply for jobs||Usually application form|
|Background check required?||Yes – DBS|
|Competition for jobs||High, due to convenient hours|
According to research carried out by the DfES and the University of Plymouth:
- TAs are 97% female
- Over half of TAs working in primary schools and secondary schools are aged between 35 and 48.
How do I become a Teaching Assistant?
Becoming a TA is fairly competitive for the advantages listed at the bottom of this article, but if you are keen and show potential, you may not need a qualification to start work. Some candidates work voluntarily to gain experience and assess whether the role is for them, whereas others prefer to gain an understanding of the role by completing courses and gaining qualifications. Either way is perfectly fine as you may want to gain a good understanding via a course or spend a number of weeks/months in an actual TA role, thus getting hands on experience within the environment and setting. The best advice would be to contact the LEA (local education authority) for the school(s) you are interested in working as they may have specific criteria. Some LEAs will only require some enthusiasm and little experience working with children, but others require a qualification such as the Level 2 or Level 3 QCF (formally NVQ) Supporting Teaching & Learning in Schools. Most QCF courses (Certificate and Diplomas) will require a work placement so it would be advisable to prepare early for such a course. It is fast becoming the norm for LEAs request a suitable Teaching Assistant qualification.
TA roles appeal to those who want to help children who have some form of learning difficulties. Therefore, a genuine desire to help such children is a must. These roles are often more prominent in primary schools, although secondary schools still require specialist input. Many parents are often attracted to this kind of role as it ties it with normal school working hours. Parents tend to seek work within the schools of their own children. Potential teachers can also start off as a TA in order to either gain experience or assess whether a teaching job is ideal for them. The Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) status allows more responsibility and can often see the TA plan lessons alongside the teacher. Various skills including working within a team effectively, patience and flexibility are desirable.
It is worth mentioning that working with children will require a thorough background check, managed by the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) - known previously as the CRB check.
Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Typical job responsibilities
- assisting the teacher in various ways.
- reading with children or being read to.
- helping with teacher with administration.
- supporting children and assisting them with completing tasks.
- maintaining classroom behaviour.
- preparing the classroom for lessons.
- supervising small or sometimes larger groups of children.
- assisting with extra curricular events.
- taking care of children who are going through difficulties
- secondary schools may require knowledge in relevant subjects such as English, mathematics and science.
- SEN qualified TAs will assist with other languages, numeracy or literacy problems.
- Candidates can often start a TA role with little or no experience.
- Courses can be taken on the job or in preparation (parents with young children often find direct learning course more suitable than hands on training).
- TA roles can lead to further careers in teaching.
- Hours worked are usually between school hours during term time, so are very useful for parents with children.
- Salary can be on the low side – between £12k – £17k annually for full time assistants and up to £21k annually for those with HLTA status.
- Some students can be challenging.
Teaching Assistant Courses – Award, Certificate or Diploma?
When schools make the decision to employ TAs, it is likely that they will contact the Local Education Authority (LEA) for details of required qualifications and/or experience for the role. Some roles are more specialised than others so it’s important to find the right candidate with the relevance skills set. Because of this, it is advised that you contact your LEA before starting any course, to ensure you’re not throwing away good money. Some LEAs may not require a QCF/NVQ qualification and may just accept GCSEs or equivalent.
What are QCF (formerly NVQ) courses?
The QCF (or Qualifications and Credit Framework) use units within each course to make learning and achieving qualifications more flexible. Each unit takes a certain amount of time (typically 10 hours) to complete and there are three distinct types of QCF qualification, each requiring a certain number of credits:
This includes just 1 to 12 credits and is seen as an introduction to a particular area of work and doesn’t require hands on experience. In the case of a teaching assistant, this may suit someone who is interested in what the role involves and the background. LEAs are less likely to accept this type of qualification as no hands on experience is necessary. Examples are:
- Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools.
- Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools.
This qualification includes 13 to 36 credits and is achieved by theory and hands on experience in the form of a work placement. This can be voluntary or paid work, part or full time. If qualifications are required, this will likely be the minimum requirement. Examples of this would be:
- Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools.
- Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
Includes 37 credits and upwards. This qualification suits someone more advanced within their role and also requires an actual work placement of some sort, as with the Certificate. Examples are:
- Level 3 Diplima in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools.
Can I transfer some units to other qualifications?
Every unit within a qualification has a unique code allocated by Ofqual. If a student can obtain a QCF unit in one qualification, which is also included within another qualification, the unit does not have to be repeated and can be transferred.
For example, the Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools includes a unit called ‘Child and Young Person Development ‘. This mandatory unit is also required for the Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools so can be counted towards both qualifications.
How do teaching assistants engage with students?
Watch this short video on how TAs work with students: