Teaching Assistant Focus

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Teaching Assistant Courses

What you need to know about Teaching Assistant courses

Teaching Assistant courses can be beneficial when improving job prospects and gaining substantial knowledge about child development and the processes within schools. However, before deciding which course to complete, it is always advisable to check with your LEA (Local Education Authority) what their requirements are for Teaching Assistants and other classroom support staff. Some LEAs don’t require qualifications, although this increasingly rare and a sound educational background is usually desirable along with proven numeracy and literacy skills. It is likely that your LEA may require a QCF qualification (formerly NVQ) where the candidate has proven capable of carrying out tasks in a TA role and is used to the setting and environment. These qualifications are usually Level 2 or Level 3 Certificate or Diploma. Awards are slightly weaker in that they do not require a work placement and are solely theory based. The Certificate or Diploma may require 50 – 100 hours of work experience, sometimes more, and you will be assessed during a portion of this time on your abilities. Some students struggle to arrange a work placement, so check whether your centre of choice helps you to arrange one.

If you are thinking about training to be a TA, but are not quite sure you want to commit or are not able to arrange a work placement, you may find an Award more suitable. Some TAs already employed like to enhance their understanding, so may also opt for an Award.

Home study courses (online training courses) can often be useful if the candidate is not able to commute to college.

Please note, courses are NOT essential. Voluntary work or other employment within a school can give you the essentials skills to pursue a TA career. As with any course, there is no guarantee you will be able to find work once qualified, but your prospects should improve.

>> Teaching assistant course comparison <<

Course checkpoints

It is advisable to consider the following points before enrolling on a course:

  • What qualifications does my LEA accept? Your job prospects will be severely inhibited if you opt for a Level 2 and your local schools will only accept a minimum of Level 3!
  • What qualification will I receive at the end of my chosen course?
  • Is the Awarding Body (i.e. NCFE, City & Guilds etc) of my chosen course recognised by Ofqual? Check here for the list of recognised QCF Awarding Organisations.
  • Does my course involve a work placement and if so, must I arrange it? An Award won’t require a work placement, but a Certificate and Diploma will.
  • Can a friend/colleague recommend a course they have completed themselves?

If you are thinking about a qualification, but are unsure of the level to choose, this chart may help.

Which course?

These are the typical qualifications which can be required by LEAs:

QCF qualifications

Level 2

Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools

Gives the student a thorough understanding of those working in a school environment. It highlights the importance of communicating and understanding, along with safeguarding students. This course is ideal for those who have not had previous experience working in a TA role and do not require a work placement upon completion.

Ideal for:

  • those wishing to gain a thorough understanding of the school environment before deciding whether the role is for them.
  • those who have started a new role, wishing to get some ground knowledge.


Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools

Includes all the mandatory units for the award, plus competency based units involving a work placement.

Ideal for:

  • those volunteering or those in a work placement, plus those in a part/full time teaching assistant role.


Level 2 Certificate in Supporting the Wider Curriculum in Schools

This certificate is designed for those working as midday assistants or supervisors whose roles involve other activities within the school, like after school clubs or outings. Some of the units from the Level 2 Certificate in Support Teaching and Learning are included, creating cross-over opportunities with teaching assistants. However, this certificate is not usually the required qualification for a TA as fewer credits are obtained.

Ideal for:

  • Midday assistants and supervisors.
  • Those in a wider curricular post.
  • Those wishing to obtain units that can contribute to the Level 2 Certificate in Support Teaching and Learning.


Level 3

Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching & Learning in Schools

As with Level 2, this award is purely knowledge based and does not require a work placement. The units within Level 2 of the same award are included, plus additional higher level units.

Ideal for:

  • those at level 2 wishing to progress to the next level of their career.
  • those who are capable of a level 3 qualification, but who are not yet working in a TA role.


Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools

All units from the Level 3 Award is included, plus the work placement requirement.

Ideal for:

  • those who are currently working at Level 2, wishing to progress into a more senior position.


Level 3 Certificate in Cover supervision in schools (expiring)

Includes all units from the Level 3 Award. Some of the units in this course are also included in the Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools, but there is less emphasis on actively advancing students’ learning and more on the differences between TA and supervisory roles. This will help students who may desire to switch roles in future.

Ideal for:

  • those currently working who want to pursue different roles.
  • those who want to gain a qualification in the Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools at a later date, by completing additional units.
  • those who are volunteering (or able find a work placement), wishing to gain an understanding of different roles.


Level 3 Diploma in Specialist support for teaching and learning in schools

The units from Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools are included, but additional specialist units are required.

Ideal for:

  • those at Level 2 wishing to specialise in a particular area of support.


HLTA (Higher Level Teaching Assistant)

The HLTA is a higher level standard for those already working as TAs as it obtained through Continued Professional Development. Salary is not always guaranteed to be higher than those without the status.

More information on levels and units
Supporting material for courses


  • Tessa2011 on October 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm said:

    Can courses be paid for by the government?

  • teachingassistant on October 22, 2013 at 7:40 am said:

    I’m not sure if the government is still funding courses for young people. I have a feeling it may have ended now. Best thing to do is contact your local Job Centre and ask. It will no doubt depend on your income, age etc. If you can’t afford to pay for a course, I would seek work within a school. Further training is usually provided by the school via the Local Education Authority, but you’ll need to check. Best of luck!

  • WitterK on October 23, 2013 at 6:44 pm said:

    I’m studying for level3 teaching assistant as this is what’s required at the school I want to work at. It’s tough as there is a lot of work to complete and you have to demonstrate your abilities so much more. But it’s worth it.

  • MSmth on October 26, 2013 at 9:24 pm said:

    I’m looking at going for Level 3 too. Just gotta get the funds together lol.

  • teachingassistant on October 26, 2013 at 9:29 pm said:

    If you’re already working as a TA, you may get funding for your Level 3.

  • Maria on February 21, 2014 at 5:39 pm said:

    I am thinking of becoming a TA. How is the best way to study it? Attending a college or is it also worth it to do it online so I can work at the same time?

    I am a bit lost. I am trying to find some help.

    Thank youuuu

    • teachingassistant on February 22, 2014 at 7:54 am said:

      Hi Maria,

      Firstly, I would contact your Local Education Authority to find out what their requirements are. You don’t want to complete a course if it’s unnecessary. The type of course will be down to your needs and if you are working and can’t attend a college, an online course may be best suited. However, discuss the experience gained as most TA positions will require some sort of work placement. Not all online courses will require a work placement and are theory based – colleges are great for meeting others and learning in groups.

      If you want more information about your situation, give us a shout – contact@tafocus.co.uk

    • James Cowie on April 9, 2015 at 3:49 pm said:

      Hi Maria,
      I have done both my level 2 and level 3 in Support Teaching and Learning in Schools. I did the level 2 at a college as it was funded. I had to do 2 half days a week work experience so I was working as I was learning. When that course ended I volunteered at the school and have since done my level 3 online. Out of the two courses, I prefered the online course as I could work at my own pace and feel I completed it quicker than going to college. I was able to carry on volunteering whilst doing the level 3 course. I hope this helps.

      • Joy Judge on April 9, 2015 at 6:30 pm said:

        Thanks for your feedback, James.

  • Lou on March 10, 2014 at 8:19 am said:

    I am a TA currently studying the FoundaTion Degree in Learning and Teaching.

  • Andrea on May 9, 2014 at 5:41 am said:

    I have the Specialist Teaching Assistant Qualification how does this fit with HTLA qualification?

  • Ni on May 22, 2014 at 7:18 pm said:

    Hi, I have a BA (hons) in early childhood studies, do I qualify to work in a level 3 TA position?

    • Victoria on June 11, 2014 at 10:17 am said:

      Hi, I also have BA, but in english philology with teacher training and I am confused, I don’t know if I can get a job at school or do I need Teaching assitant course first? If yes, can anyone give me an advice and tell what kind of course is better, online or with classroom attendance? I am not sure if I take online course it would be good choice, because later when I will be looking for a job, maybe employers preffer their future employees who have finished Teaching assistant courses with classroom attendance, not online? Any help? Please

      • Joy Judge on June 11, 2014 at 11:24 am said:


        You both are certainly more marketable with your qualifications. I would check with your Local Ed Authority as they are all so different and it really depends on the type of role you apply for and availability of TAs in your local area.

        Victoria, you can opt for classroom based courses or online, but online tends to steer towards the Award, which doesn’t require a work placement. If you are looking to do a Certificate or Diploma online, it’s more than likely you will need to find the work placement on your own. Check with as many different course providers as possible. I have to be honest, most LEAs will want experience, so the Certificate or Diploma is more attractive. Classroom attendance is usually down to the student’s learning preference. I prefer learning with others, but a home study course would be best suited to me as I can’t fit college attendance within my work schedule.

        Always best to contact your LEAs and schools as they will be able to give you the best advice on what they are looking for.

  • lucy on January 8, 2015 at 9:38 pm said:

    I have just completed a home study level 3 teaching assistant course and really enjoyed it but am looking at becoming a sen TA- which is the best SEN homestudy course, there seems to be a few but when you look into them it doesn’t really look like they are properly accredited. Can anyone suggest a proper course?

    • Joy Judge on January 16, 2015 at 10:58 am said:

      Hi Lucy. I would discuss with your LEA/local schools first to ascertain which qualifications they will accept. I know Stonebridge offer some SEN specific courses, but check with your LEA before parting with any money. They should be able to guide you on the most suitable course.

  • Jen Brown on February 4, 2015 at 2:02 pm said:

    I work as a SEN teaching assistant in a secondary school, and wanting to do either a higher level teaching assistant course of a level 2/3 ta course which would be better?
    I am eventually looking to go into teaching.

  • Debra Priston on March 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm said:

    Good afternoon
    I would like enquire if you have any vacancies for assessor for supporting teaching and learning. I have 5 years experience and have the A1 assessor award and PTLLS certificate.
    I would be happy to discuss any posts with you and provide my CV.
    Thank you

  • Corinne Grennan on March 23, 2015 at 2:39 pm said:

    Hi, I’m interested in being a t.a, and my experience with children is being a voluntary support care worker with a local government funded charity. I have c grade GCSEs in maths, English lit and lang, biology, history, geography, welsh, and b in art. I also have a level art b grade and c grades in English lit, and psychology. Would I be able to apply for a t.a job?

  • Eva on March 28, 2015 at 9:59 pm said:

    I am thinking about becoming a TA. I am a secondary school teacher. What would be the best route in my case? Also, I do not have any SEN training, apart from the normal one provided for teachers during the odd short meetings and sessions, and I imagine that it is not enough to be a good TA. Would you also please recommend a course or a training to follow? Thank you.

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