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