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The Value of Teaching Assistants by Alex Cunningham MP

Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, recently led a debate in Westminster Hall on the value of Teaching Assistants in schools.

The Value of Teaching Assistants by Alex Cunningham MP

Labour MP Alex CunninghamAsk any parent or teacher the value of education, and they will confirm without hesitation the importance of giving children the best start in life and opening the doors to opportunities that will allow, and indeed encourage, them to succeed.

To realise this goal, we need not only to provide an education for our children, but to ensure that young people are taught well. And it is in facilitating this outcome that Teaching Assistants most clearly demonstrate their importance to our schooling system.

Rather than being the high-cost and low-return intervention many have derided them as being, Teaching Assistants add tremendous value to classrooms and hold a huge potential to improve and enrich educational outcomes.

And this is why the 2003 Workload Agreement in England and Wales – an effort of the last Labour government to recognise this potential and to raise standards in schools – significantly increased the number of Teaching Assistants, who now make up around 27.5% of the total school workforce in England, with more than 359,000 in classrooms across England alone.

The aim of the Agreement was simple: to allow teachers to actually teach by lessening pressures and reducing burdens elsewhere. Yet, despite the promise and potential Teaching Assistants provide, these valuable assets are undervalued and often underpaid, while their contributions go largely unrecognised.

While the need for great teachers at all levels is self-evident, a report from Reform in 2010 took this requirement further – and much too far, I would argue – by suggesting that Ministers “[r]emove the various Government interventions into the cost and size of the teaching workforce” to increase accountability to parents and strengthen management and performance.

A natural consequence, the report contended, would be “a fall in the number of teaching assistants, since the value of the rapid growth in their numbers is not supported by the research evidence”. But their conclusions were based on some very narrow and selective data negating them.

With primary schools spending £2.8 billion on Teaching Assistants and support staff in 2010/11, and secondary schools spending £1.6 billion during the same period, it is perhaps unsurprising that their role and worth have found their way into the public spotlight.

The Institute for Education’s Deployment and Impact of Support Staff project, for instance, suggested a negative relationship between the amount of Teaching Assistant support and academic progress in students, while Reform indicated that £1.7 billion could be saved each year through reducing costs associated with Teaching Assistants.

These questions, however, are very much the result of a Government whose focus is squarely aimed on resource allocation and productivity per pound spent rather than on the actual educational outcomes and opportunities that this spending yields. Or, to put it another way, an ideologically driven attentiveness to cost at the expense of value.

An example of the selective use of data is the Teaching and Learning Toolkit produced by a collaboration of the Education Endowment Foundation and the Sutton Trust. While it is true that the toolkit suggests that Teaching Assistants have a low impact for a high cost, it is important that the toolkit also specifies that this judgment is “based on limited evidence”. The implication, of course, being that the sentiment should not necessarily be taken at face value, or at least not without the addition of substantial caveats.

Indeed, the Education Endowment Foundation made it clear that such a simplistic reading of their evidence is decidedly unhelpful, with the toolkit also specifying that Teaching Assistants “can have a positive impact on academic achievement”. Unsurprisingly, this assessment was not given equal weighting by Reform in their report, which appears to have been aimed at generating scaremongering headlines rather than addressing the real issues affecting Teaching Assistants.

And the Government’s indifference to support staff has only added to the anxiety. While the last Labour government legislated for a School Support Staff Negotiating Body, this body was abolished within the first year of the Coalition as quangos were indiscriminately eliminated in a brutal cost-cutting drive.

Similarly, the Government has axed national funding for Higher Level Teaching Assistant training and has archived all the national Teaching Assistant and Higher Level Teaching Assistant training resources and guidance, with high-quality training for Teaching Assistants becoming just another victim of the Coalition Government’s austerity package.

Fortunately, with school leaders having responsibility for employing support staff rather than the Department for Education, more Teaching Assistants have been sought rather than less, despite the negative agenda of the Government. The 5.7% increase between 2011-12 reflects the 95% of school leaders who say that Teaching Assistants add real value in schools.

And in case there was any doubt, Ofsted, who routinely report on the positive impact of Teaching Assistants despite not having an official remit of inspection for support staff, have looked upon their role very favourably.

But with schools set to receive additional funding to better support disadvantaged students, it is high time that the Government clarified its strategy on Teaching Assistants – not only how they are to be funded, but also guidance on how they are to be trained and qualified to ensure that their contributions have the maximum impact on the education of those young people they help.

At the same time, school leaders also need to be clear about the role and purpose they see Teaching Assistants fulfilling in their schools, defining the contributions they will make to learning. And this means initiating specific opportunities for teachers to liaise with Teaching Assistants in advance of lessons, not only so they know what will be taught, but so that they are clear on what tasks will be undertaken and their specific responsibilities, as well as the expectations that the teacher has of pupils.

As with teachers, it is precisely this environment of openness and collaboration that we must foster if we are to raise standards and rival the best education systems in the world. And, again similar to teachers, one key measure in doing this is to promote continuous professional development that will ensure their knowledge and skills remain at the fore.

It is this level of training and development that will allow Teaching Assistants to properly deliver specific, high-quality teaching interventions that will be to the advantage of teachers and pupils alike, whether it be in the shape of specialist support for pupils with special needs, administrative support to teachers to ease the pressure, or targeted interventions in other areas of learning.

The latest research from the Education Endowment Foundation confirms that well-trained Teaching Assistants can make a real difference, demonstrating the significant positive effects they can have in literacy and numeracy “when they are deployed well”. And this is the crucial point – Teaching Assistants, when properly instructed and deployed, “can be effective at improving attainment”.

Properly utilised, Teaching Assistants are neither low-cost substitute teachers, nor high-cost babysitters. Rather, when deployed effectively, the reality is that they add significant value to our education system and improve the learning and support that our young people are able to access. It is only right that we recognise this.

Teaching Personnel at nasen Live 2014

Nasen Live 2014 will be held at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton on 21 – 22 May. Nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) is a unique event dedicated to sharing best education practice and the latest education developments. Register for free and book onto various event seminars.

In the last year, Teaching Personnel has been working in partnership with nasen on a number of projects and, for the first time, will have a stand at nasen Live this year. They look forward to providing you with CPD opportunities that will better equip you to deliver even greater value to pupils with special educational needs, should this be an area of education where you are seeking or would consider pursuing work opportunities.

In recent years, Teaching Personnel has positioned itself as the leading recruitment agency for the special needs sector, with staffing roles to support pupils with SEN representing just over 40% of their total candidate placements. Several specialist SEN branches were opened recently and highly trained special needs recruitment consultants now operate in every branch across England and Wales.

Teaching Personnel will be at stand C1 at nasen Live 2014 and will be holding a prize draw each day. So, for your chance to win £50 worth of SEN learning materials from TTS, print and complete the form below and hand it in to Teaching Personnel at stand C1.

nasen Live 2014 Teaching Personnel

Be a part of the first Teaching Assistant TeachMeet!

5.30pm Thursday 22nd May 2014

The University of Northampton has recently announced their first Teaching Assistant TeachMeet, held this coming May and is free to attend (limited tickets available).

Each year, TeachMeet allows educational staff to come together, sharing positive and inspirational ideas through informal interaction and short presentations. You can take part and present or simply listen and be inspired! Either way, you’ll learn a thing or two about Teaching Assistants and HLTAs!

TA TeachMeet will take place from 5.30pm on Thursday 22nd May 2014 at the University of Northampton.

More information:

Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants – chapter summaries

Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants

By Anthony Russell, Rob Webster and Peter Blatchfordmaximising impact of TAs jacket

Published by Routledge

Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants (MITA) has been designed to provide easy-to-use, evidence-based materials and activities to improve the preparation of TAs and teachers, the deployment of TAs, and TAs’ interactions with pupils.

Drawing on our extensive research, MITA provides support, guidance and recommendations primarily directed at school leaders’ efforts to invest in and develop their TA workforce, and at teachers looking for techniques and strategies to improve their classroom practice.

Chapter 1: The case for change: implications and strategies

This chapter sets out the case for rethinking the current and widespread ways of using TAs. We provide an explanation for the negative relationship between TA support and pupil progress found in the Deployment and Impact of Support Staff project and raise questions for readers to think about. We explain how the guidance in the book was derived from an action research study we undertook in collaboration with schools, called the Effective Deployment of TAs project.

Chapter 2: Auditing the deployment, preparation and practice of TAs

This chapter aims to raise awareness of the need to review the deployment, preparation and practice of TAs as they are currently in your school, and to guide you on the tools through which the present situation in any one school or class, or cluster, can be obtained. We draw on the audit devised as part of the EDTA project and through which we confirmed its usefulness in helping schools to initiate the processes of review and change.

Chapter 3: The deployment of TAs

The perceived role of the TA is central to the ways in which they are deployed, and this chapter sets out the various roles assigned at the school level by headteachers and at the classroom level by individual teachers. The linking – or ‘Velcroing’, as it is sometimes known – of TAs to pupils with SEN and those whose attainment is relatively low, is presented as the central issue about TAs facing the school leaders and teachers. The DISS project has shown that, at present, decisions regarding TA deployment are often detrimental to the pupils being supported, so change is clearly necessary. Whilst TAs are not to blame for this situation, we argue that the status quo is no longer defendable and serious investment in TAs is now needed.

Chapter 4: The preparedness of TAs

This chapter deals with issues such as: induction; TAs’ instructional and subject knowledge and skills; training; recruitment; and contracts. At the classroom level, the main focus is on issues of time for TAs to meet teachers for preparation and feedback on a day-to-day basis, as well as communication more generally.

Chapter 5: The practice of TAs

The verbal interactions between TAs and pupils (‘practice’ in our terms) are at the heart of their role as supporters of learning. Although this relates to decisions and strategies at the classroom level, there are school-level decisions relating to strategic choices about questioning styles, monitoring and training, which can be made to improve TAs’ practice. Furthermore, it reveals ways in which schools and teachers can reduce the need for adult support by helping pupils to develop independent learning skills. This chapter sets out things that schools can start doing tomorrow in order to release the huge potential of TAs.

Chapter 6: Conclusions

In this final chapter we restate the case for change (chapter 1) by summing up the positive impact of carrying out the suggestions in the book, drawing on the experiences of the schools we worked with in the EDTA project.

More information:

Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants official website
Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants Facebook page

Career Focus Week

TA Careers Week

Focus on your Teaching Assistant career

Make 2014 the year of change! Have you decided it’s time to act and get yourself a better job? Perhaps you’re wondering whether to go for that course in case it improves your prospects? Well, look no further! Between 10th – 14th March, Teaching Personnel (one of the UK’s largest teaching recruitment agencies), has lent us a team of experts to answer ANY questions you may have about your job prospects. This is a perfect opportunity to utilise some of the best experts in the field.

Teaching Personnel will answer your queries and we’ll post them below. To post a question, simply add your question(s) below in the comments section or email career@tafocus.co.uk. You don’t have to give your real name if you prefer to remain anonymous.

Teaching Personnel’s team of experts will endeavour to answer as many questions as they can.


About Teaching Personnel

Teaching Personnel (www.teachingpersonnel.com) is the UK’s leading education recruitment specialist.

Teaching Personnel logoSince 1996 they have registered over 100,000 teachers and classroom support staff who have chosen Teaching Personnel to help them find them work in UK classrooms.  They are recognised for having the most stringent vetting procedures and for tailoring their service to meet the unique staffing requirements of every school.  Every academic year they provide staff to over 4,000 schools and are recognised by schools as the quality provider of education supply staff.

Questions & Answers

Q. Can I ask whether there are many jobs in the Southampton or Bournemouth area? Every time I look for jobs there, I can’t find any and I have lots of qualifications!

A. Teaching Personnel are currently advertising 243 jobs for Teaching Assistants across Hampshire and Dorset.  The majority of these will be within the proximity of Southampton and Bournemouth as these cities are where the majority or our client schools are located.  If you would like to discuss job opportunities in this area, feel free to give us a call on 023 8033 1441.


Q. I am doing a level 2 online course and wanted to know whether I need to get some experience (work placement) as well. I should have checked, but the course is not one that enables you to get experience.

A. Experience is always a bonus but not having any doesn’t mean you won’t find a position after completing your course.  If you are interested in getting some experience, perhaps on a voluntary basis for a week or two, we could help you find a suitable school.  We would not charge the school for this and there would be no cost to you either.  Once you then have this experience and have completed your course, we would be more than happy to find you a job.

(NB: More about courses)

Q. I’ve started a course in supporting teaching and learning in schools. Is that the standard qualification or is there something else I need?

A. I’m afraid we don’t have much experience of that particular course.  It would be worth asking your course leader to confirm whether this is equivalent to an accredited teaching assistant qualification.

(NB: List of popular TA courses)


Q. There has been much talk about the role of teaching assistants, resulting in the loss of many TA jobs. Have you seen many schools replace redundant staff?

A. At Teaching Personnel the placement of teaching assistants has seen no decline in recent years – quite the opposite in fact.  Clearly there have been a few headlines in the media but the reality is that teaching assistants are highly valued by headteachers.  There may be/have been changes to the way teaching assistants are deployed in schools now and in the future but in terms of workforce reduction, that is not our experience.


Q. Is there any need for higher qualifications (foundation degrees)?

A. It really depends on your career path within education.  Do you want to enter the classroom as a teaching assistant capable of leading a team of learning support staff?  Is your ultimate goal to become a qualified teacher?  We find work for teaching assistants who have level 1 qualifications right through to those who have degrees, previous classroom experience and HLTA status.


Q. Can I get a TA job without qualifications and learn/study on the job?

A. It depends on the school.  Some schools will recruit you without a formal qualification and allow you to gain a qualification ‘on the job’, some will require you to have a formal teaching assistant qualification before appointing you.  If you have the transferrable skills, some experience and the right attitude you stand a good chance of a school taking you on as an assistant with a view to helping you develop your career in the classroom.


Q. TA salaries are pretty low. Do you have many candidates on your books willing to work for such low wages?

A. The pay rates are generally determined by the role.  If you are a classroom assistant helping with displays and general teacher support tasks you won’t be paid as highly as a learning support assistant who is delivering pupil interventions to help raise attainment or a specialist TA who is working one-to-one with a child that has severe special needs.  At Teaching Personnel we place teaching assistants across the full range of classroom support roles.


Q. I work as an LSA in a secondary school, but want to know whether I should be looking to gain experience or qualifications to improve my future prospects?

A. You are in the best place to get more experience if a career in the classroom is what you desire.  We would recommend speaking to the headteacher or a member of the senior leadership team to discuss your career progression.  They are highly likely to show a keen interest in your career development as it will positively impact on their school and its pupils.


Q. Do schools prefer temporary staff rather than permanent?

A. Both we hope.  It depends on the nature of the staffing requirement.  Not all requirements are permanent – many are to cover a member of staff who will be returning the school in the future – perhaps after taking maternity leave for example.


Q. There appear to be many jobs advertised on the TP website. Is staff turnover high or are these ‘new’ roles?

A. Teaching Personnel is the largest agency in the UK which, generally speaking is why we have a large number of job opportunities advertised.  Put into context though, there are over 26,000 schools in England and Wales with around one million staff working in them.  Teaching Personnel has just over 12,500 job opportunities advertised on our website.  Our jobs are a mix of temporary short and long-term cover (1 day to 1 year in length), some permanent roles and specialist assignments to support the delivery of flexible pupil interventions.


Q. Do NNEB diplomas count these days? Can I use this to become a teaching assistant, even though it was many years ago?

A. Yes we believe NNEB diplomas do count.   You would need to double check this but we think the diploma counts as a Level 3 equivalent and a certificate counts as a Level 2 equivalent.  The important point to make here is that an NNEB qualification/TA comparison is equivalent of and doesn’t automatically give you a TA qualification. An employer is likely to look at the qualification as equivalent to.  With regards to being qualified many years ago,  the likelihood is that your future employer will make the decision on whether they are comfortable employing someone that has been out of the sector for an extended period or not. Your qualification wont expire as such.


Q. I had a juvenile conviction when I was a kid, but I now want to become a teaching assistant. Will it hinder my chances with the relevant checks?

A. It really depends on the nature of the conviction.  If it is a minor offence with absolutely no relation to issues around pupil safeguarding and child protection, it is unlikely to impact your ability to find work in schools – but the decision to appoint you will be down to each individual head teacher and your conviction will need to be disclosed.


Q. I’m volunteering at the moment, but can’t seem to find paid work. Do you have any advice?

A. Get a reference from the school you are volunteering at and then register with Teaching Personnel!  www.teachingpersonnel.com


Q. Are there any standard interview questions I should be aware of?

A. If you can’t find relevant resources on the TA focus website, try Googling “interview questions for teaching assistants”.  You’ll find plenty of resources and guidance.  Perhaps Teaching Personnel will work with the TA Focus website to create this resource in the near future!


Q. There seems to be a standard application form for most schools.  Can you offer any advice on how best to approach the application form, particularly where you need to detail why you best fit the role?

A. Firstly, ensure you understand the role being advertised and what it entails.  Try to be as individual as possible and ensure you are articulating how you believe you will add value to the school, its staff and pupils.  Don’t overthink this – they want to know about you – they don’t want you to tell them what you think they want to hear.  Obviously ensure your spelling and grammar are correct!


Q. What is the process of temp work i.e. will I be paid weekly, will I be given little notice of jobs etc?

A. Yes you will be paid weekly if you join an agency.  When it comes to TA work, most assignments are not on an emergency basis so you should get reasonable notice.



Teaching Personnel Disclaimer:  The information on the TA Focus Careers Week Q&A page is for general information purposes only and is based on Teaching Personnel’s experiences in the education recruitment sector.  Teaching Personnel make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability for a particular purpose.  By making any use of the information provided by Teaching Personnel you agree that in no event will Teaching Personnel be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from, arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this information. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.


** Many thanks to Teaching Personnel for answering your questions **

SEN Reforms – what you need to know

A revised SEN Code of Practice will be published by the Department of Education by April 2014 and implemented from September 2014. Essentially, the Government will transform the system so services support the best outcomes for those with special educational needs (SEN), giving young people and parents a greater input into decisions and ensuring needs are met.

The key principles in the Children and Families Bill are:

  • Promoting the participation of children/young people and parents in the SEN decision making process.
  • The extension of the SEN system from birth to 25 (which will replace the Learning Difficulties Assessment for school leavers).
  • Improving the progress of children/young people with SEN.
  • Co-operation of local education, social care and health services to meet the needs of children/young people with SEN.
  • LEAs to publish a clear ‘local offer’ of services, so young people and parents are aware of what is available to them.
  • Statements to be phased out from September 2014 and replaced with Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessments.
  • SEN Support will replace School Action and School Action Plus, where school will involve parents with decisions, outcomes and planning.
  • Academies, Further Education, Free Schools and Sixth Form colleges to include the same SEN duties as maintained schools.

More information:

Families happy with SEN reforms and £70 million for councils


Free digital copy of NASTA’s Supporting Learning magazine!

Supporting Learning coverNASTA (The National Association of School Teaching Assistants) publish three editions of the official NASTA magazine, Supporting Learning, annually. The magazine contains articles written by Dave Vizard (Editor and Chair of the Association) and other experienced professionals about relevant, up to date Teaching Assistants and Cover Supervisors topics, including behavioural management, strategies to support pupil’s learning, management and professional development issues, real life stories and plenty more!

NASTA has provided TA Focus visitors with a free digital copy of Supporting Learning (Autumn 2013) until the end of April 2014.

To receive a digital copy of the magazine, please sign up to the TA Focus newsletter and NASTA correspondence below (TA Focus will send regular newsletters and NASTA will notify you of offers and information relating to NASTA and Supporting Learning).

You should receive the download details within 24 hours, otherwise please contact marketing@tafocus.co.uk

Subscribe to the TA Focus mailing list and NASTA mailing list

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My Favourite Teaching Assistant Course Modules

Kathryn Arnold previously wrote about the challenges of her Teaching Assistant course. In this post, Kathryn discusses her favourite modules and why.


When studying for the ‘Level 3 Teaching Assistant Diploma’ via Stonebridge Colleges, one of the modules that particularly interested me was ‘Supporting pupils with Special Educational Needs’. I have always wanted to specialise in this area, and whilst Stonebridge Colleges do offer a specific course for SEN teaching, I wanted to also learn how to work with mainstream children and how a mainstream school works as a whole.

I was firstly interested in studying the factors that may affect learning, for example; hearing problems, sight problems, attention span and maybe even family life at home. I learnt about ways to deliver equal opportunities to all pupils, and prevent barriers to learning. I feel a Teaching Assistant going into a school environment already knowing how to tackle potential learning barriers is so important and makes you successful at your job.

Within this module, you also learn about the roles of the teaching staff – the relationships formed between teacher and learner, the learning environment and the teaching skills needed for independent learning. This helped me to learn what my particular role as Teaching Assistant would involve, and the importance of my support and guidance to pupils. The part of this module which I found most difficult was all the information on current legislation and school policies. This, although extremely important, can be quite dull to revise. I did however enjoy learning about the wide range of support staff available and on board for pupils with Special Educational Needs – I was so wrong when I thought it was just the teacher and TA! You will learn in this module about the roles of support staff such as;

• Occupational Therapists
• Physiotherapists
• Speech and Language Therapists
• Educational Psychologists
• Paediatrician

All these roles, alongside the class teacher and the Teaching Assistants, can provide equal amounts of support to these pupils. You never know, you might learn that another role suits you better! I think that knowing about everybody’s role within a school environment ensures great communication and support for the pupils.

You will also learn about resources available for pupils with Special Educational Needs, for example; Braille for blind pupils/pupils with poor vision, alternative keyboards for pupils with poor motor skills, and technology to maximise hearing. I found this information very useful, and it prepared me for resources that would have confused me had I not have learnt about their purpose.

Another extremely useful subject I learnt about during this module was case studies for pupils with Special Educational Needs. You can expect to feel totally confident going into a job in a school knowing that this is something you can contribute to. The module offers revision on how to write them, what they should include, the objective of a case study and the school guidelines on confidentiality. Knowing all of this information means that teaching staff can entrust you to do this job with ease! Case studies are a fantastic way to ensure the pupils needs are met, that they have learning outcomes and an appropriate challenge for their ability, and the learning experience and provision are suitable for them. If a pupil with Special Educational Needs is placed in a mainstream school, this should not affect their learning and they should feel comfortable and be able to meet targets in that provision.

The exam paper for this module contains 6 questions, each requiring at least a paragraph for an answer. This particular module, in my opinion, required the most writing and I think this is mainly because of all the legislation that goes hand in hand with Special Educational Needs. The main requirements for the questions are to describe, explain or outline certain aspects of what you have learnt. As I’m sure you can imagine, this means a sentence is just not going to cut it! Each question weights 5 marks, and therefore I always think it makes sense to raise 5 points/ideas. You most definitely have to refer back to your notes, use your brain and enjoy what you are learning about in order to pass this module. It is obviously important to fully understand, and I found the revision absolutely valuable to what I want to do with my life. I passed this module, which I feel hugely down to my genuine interest in the subject as it wasn’t easy. Finishing the module helped me feel prepared to work with pupils who have Special Educational Needs, and I really felt I could support them in preventing barriers to learning, and ensuring a great learning experience.

Studying for Level 3 Teaching Assistant Diploma

Kathryn Arnold is studying for a Level 3 Teaching Assistant course. She discusses her journey and how she finds communicating online. The qualifications acquired at the end of Kathryn’s course are the Stonebridge Associated Colleges: Teaching Assistant Diploma and Level 3 Teaching Assistant Award.


I have always wanted to work within a school environment, and after studying childcare, and spending some time working as a nanny, I decided to take that next step. After searching on the internet, I came across a Level 3 Teaching Assistant Diploma course being offered by Stonebridge College as a work from home scheme. The course requires no experience, which told me that it offers plenty of learning opportunities. There are 9 modules to this course :-

  • Supporting the teacher
  • Supporting the pupil
  • Supporting the curriculum
  • Supporting the school
  • Supporting ICT in the classroom
  • Supporting pupils with Special Educational needs
  • Supporting literacy development
  • Supporting numeracy development
  • Working with others

I was initially impressed by the content of this course, and upon checking it was legitimate, I decided it was the one for me. I found the syllabus exciting, and I liked how I could do it at my own pace. Another great factor is you have a personal tutor on board who you can email at any time you may get stuck, and who will mark your exams. The cost of this course was affordable and seemed standard across all available courses online.


How long will it take me to complete?

The duration is really depends on your lifestyle. For example, as a full time mother, with her own small business and a constant mountain of ironing on the go, it has taken me just over a year and I am now about to complete my final exam. For me, this relieves the pressure of deadlines, and fitting revision in to my weekly schedule. The college does offer a calculator  on their site, in which you can type in how many hours a week and it will tell you roughly how long the course will take to complete. The course is available as an online study, or paper format which means the papers get posted to you. I chose the online study option, because I personally find it much easier to work that way, but it really depends on your learning style.


What’s involved?

Upon receiving my student login details and exploring the student site, I opened up my first assignment. There is no right or wrong way to revise here, whether you prefer to print the revision and highlight section, or write out pages of notes – it’s totally up to you. I found myself doing a mixture throughout the papers, dependant on my mood!! Each assignment contains tons of information, focusing on things like; methods that the Teaching Assistant could use within certain situations, factors that could affect learning, the learning environment and tools used within that, adhering to the correct laws and legislations, helping pupils develop, and ensuring their safety. There are many more elements to the course, but those are just a few examples of the sort of thing you can expect to learn about.


How to approach exams

Once you feel that you have revised sufficiently, you can do your first exam. The exam contains 5-6 essay questions in which you will be expected to write at least a paragraph on each question. You have, of course, always got your notes to refer back to, however you will also be expected to have an input on activities/methods you as the Teaching Assistant could use, for example; when learning about measurement and mass, pupils can differentiate between a weight held in each hand (a sentence from my own exam on supporting numeracy development.) Once you have sent your exam paper off, the tutor will usually mark within a few days and send back your grades. Unfortunately on a few occasions I have never received mine and have had to chase them up! I have recently discovered though, that your grades are automatically submitted to your student page as well, so all hope is not lost. This does however mean you don’t get your feedback – just pass or fail.

I have, so far, passed each module, and I particularly liked receiving feedback on how they thought I was getting on. The final exam paper is extremely daunting though and I am currently plucking up the courage to start it! It involves a huge summary of all the modules and the main points that have been learnt throughout the course. This exam would require a long essay, so a lot of using notes and putting in the hard work and effort. I will feel a huge sense of relief when it is finished!

The course as a whole is excellent for anyone who likes independent learning, and no deadlines! Initially, as a young mum I thought the cost was quite large, however in hindsight it really is worth every penny. The communication between tutor and pupil could be slightly better, but it hasn’t really affected my learning. I would wholeheartedly recommend the course, for anyone who has the drive to succeed, a good initiative, and commitment. The course will fully prepare you to work in a school environment, even without work placements on offer. I personally have childcare experience, but if you don’t you could always volunteer in a school if you think it’d help you along the way. I’m hoping it will improve my job prospects and make me more employable.

Teaching Assistant’s Pocketbook – 10 Copies To Win!

Teachers' Pocketbook LogoTeachers’ Pocketbooks, launched in 2003, are intended to aid classroom teachers and support staff with practical information, ideas and expertise on a number of topics.

Teaching Assistants Pocketbook

They are cute postcard-sized reads with the added bonus of cartoons!

With over forty books in the series to choose from, slip them into your bag or pocket for a refreshing dose of information and visual humour – and they’re only £8.99 each! For more information, visit www.teacherspocketbooks.co.uk



This competition has now ended.

10 lucky winners will receive a copy of Teaching Assistant’s Pocketbook by Dot Constable, generously donated to us by Teachers’ Pocketbooks.10 copies of Teaching Assistant's Pocketbook

Do you know of an excellent FREE resource other Teaching Assistants can benefit from? Perhaps a free ebook, magazine, PDF, infographic or other? To enter our competition, all you need to do is alert us to a great resource, which we can add to our Teaching Assistant resources page. It can be in any form, but something you feel other Teaching Assistants will find useful.  We’ll pick the best 10 suggestions and each person will receive a copy of Teaching Assistant’s Pocketbook! 

To enter:

This competition has now ended.


Competition Terms

  • The competition will end on 10th February 2014.
  • Entrants must be at least 16 years of age and a UK resident.
  • The winning comments will be selected by the TA Focus team on or after the closing date.
  • Winners will be notified by email within 14 days of the winning comment being chosen.
  • There is no cash alternative to the prize.
  • TA Focus’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.