Teaching Assistant Focus

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What you should know before becoming a Teaching Assistant by Andrea Duncan

How do I become a Teaching Assistant?

If this question was asked 10 years ago, the answer would be pretty easy. Find an open Teaching Assistant position in your local school and give them a call. Chances are you’ll walk into a job without any experience. Today, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Teaching Assistant role has changed dramatically in recent years and these key members of classroom support staff have increased responsibility (but not pay, I should add). If there is one fact a TA-to-be should know is the role is hugely competitive now. With tight budgets and highly qualified candidates to choose from, many TAs are finding it hard to secure employment.

Are there TA jobs in my local schools?

It really depends on your area within the UK. Some schools are screaming out for TAs, whilst others are inundated with applications for each advertised post. That brings me onto the other factor. Years ago, there were no such applications to fill out for a TA role. You simply ‘walked in’ to a job without experience or qualifications. These days, application forms are the norm and they take time and practise to master. Many TAs are well experienced with the application form process – usually it takes a number of applications before one is successful.

What about qualifications and skills?

Qualifications are standard these days. Local Education Authorities will have slightly different rules from one another, but they will usually ask for a QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework), formerly the NVQ. There are varying levels. Level 2 is standard and level 3 will require solid experience. Within these levels is a varying degree of experience. The ‘Award’ is purely theoretical and gives the student a good understanding of the subject. The Awards are usually the basis of online courses (home study) as the course can be completed in the comfort of your home. The ‘Certificate’ is more thorough and you need to arrange a work placement or other relevant experience. The ‘Diploma’ is the most thorough and will require excellent experience and includes a number of units omitted from the previous two. Most LEAs will require a Level 2 Certificate at the very least and there are a number of suitable topics to choose from relating to Teaching Assistants.

Once such popular topic is the Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools. To obtain these qualifications, the would be Teaching Assistant will need to find a suitable course either in college or online. Even once qualified, the process of finding a TA role is tricky. There are plenty of online job boards packed with TA or SEN (Special Educational Needs) jobs, but salaries aren’t particularly high. The Government is currently considering changing the pay structure now that is acknowledging the hard work of classroom support staff. It is essential to research local school posts and the minimum experience/qualifications necessary before embarking on a course or applying for TA jobs. If you have a clear path to becoming a Teaching Assistant, it will minimise possible disappointment at the end.

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