Skip to main content

How to become a Teaching Assistant

What is a Teaching Assistant?

Teaching assistants, also known as TAs, are the unsung heroes of the classroom, offering support to teachers and students across various education levels. They’re essentially the teacher’s co-pilot — there to lend a hand, explain the tricky stuff and answer any burning questions a student might have.

Teaching assistants are now regarded as recognised professionals and their skills are integral to primary and secondary schools, nurseries, special needs institutions, and even higher education centres.

What are the responsibilities of a TA?

Being a teaching assistant is like being the Robin to the teacher’s Batman. Typically, you will assist the lead teacher by helping with various tasks, from preparing materials for lessons to arranging super cool educational displays.

You’re also the go-to person to give that extra boost to students who might need it, whether it’s providing additional support to special educational needs (SEN) students, or students who require extra help understanding subject matter.

The responsibilities of a teaching assistant will vary based on the specific role, often depending on the level of education being taught and the experience of the TA. Nevertheless, here are some of the day-to-day tasks a TA may carry out:

  • Acting as the teacher’s main support in all learning activities.
  • Providing focused additional support in small group or one-to-one sessions, including SEN children.
  • Taking the time to work with children to improve their reading skills.
  • Helping teachers to prepare the classroom for learning activities.
  • Creating engaging and educational displays that showcase the children’s work or key topics.
  • Working with children, parents, and teachers to manage children’s behaviour.
  • Communicating with parents and guardians to monitor progress and manage any concerns.
  • Collaborating with the teacher to plan and deliver learning activities and ensure classes run smoothly.

How to become a Teaching Assistant

Becoming a teaching assistant requires relevant qualifications, experience, and a whole lot of dedication. Below are the key ingredients you’ll need to set you on your way:

Gain relevant qualifications: Mandatory qualifications typically include GCSEs in Maths and English, or equivalent certifications in literacy and numeracy, such as Functional Skills. Confidence in both maths and English is crucial for a teaching assistant to effectively support pupils in their learning.

Gain experience: Gaining experience within an educational setting can significantly enhance your prospects. Consider volunteering in schools, nurseries, or educational programs to gain practical experience working with children or young adults. This experience showcases your commitment and familiarity with classroom dynamics.

Pursue relevant courses: Enrolling on courses specifically designed for teaching assistants can be immensely beneficial to your career in education. These courses offer insights into classroom management, child development, and teaching methodologies, further preparing you for the role. They can also do wonders for your CV.

Depending on your experience, you can choose from a range of level 2 and level 3 courses and qualifications to help you start your journey.

Apply for positions: Once you’ve acquired the necessary qualifications and experience, you can start applying for teaching assistant positions in schools, colleges, or educational institutions.

Professional development: During your career as a teaching assistant, your remit is likely to grow as your responsibilities increase. For example, you may need to work with children with special educational needs, or children who require more pastoral care. In cases such as these, you will need to have specialist knowledge under your belt to enable you to support these pupils. Or you may wish to move up the career ladder and increase your earning potential, which you can achieve by becoming a higher level teaching assistant.

Required skills and qualities

To step into the shoes of a teaching assistant, there are certain qualities employers will look for applications and interviews. These include:

  • Excellent numeracy, literacy, and reading skills to be able to support pupils with their learning.
  • The ability to communicate effectively with pupils, colleagues, and parents.
  • A patient, empathetic, and calm demeanour as you will be dealing with a diverse range of students with varying backgrounds.
  • Able to build a rapport with pupils in order to motivate and inspire them to reach their full potential.
  • Solid understanding of safety, wellbeing, and safeguarding protocols.
  • Willing to collaborate with school staff and professionals to create a positive learning environment.
  • The flexibility to support and participate in events such as parents evenings, residential trips, and extra-curricular activities.

You will be required to undergo a DBS check, which is a criminal record check. Often, the place of work will carry this out for you, however, you may already have one as you are required to have a DBS check before you can work with children.

Teaching Assistant salary

The average salary range for a teaching assistant is £14,000 to £21,000 according to National Careers Service. However, a teaching assistant’s salary can vary greatly depending on a range of factors. Some of these include:

  • Location: Salaries can differ based on the region you live in. For example, places with a higher cost of living such as London tend to offer higher compensation packages.
  • Experience: As you gain more experience in your career, you will be eligible for higher salaries.
  • The type of institution you are applying to: Your wages can vary depending on whether you work for a private school, academy, state school, or a higher education institution.
  • Your qualifications: Possessing higher level or specialised qualifications can lead to higher pay scales.

You can further increase your pay by taking on additional responsibilities such as running breakfast and after-school clubs.

Agency work

You can also work as a teaching assistant through an agency. While agency work might open the door to higher pay rates, brace yourself for uncertain hours and no pay during the school holidays.

What to expect as a Teaching Assistant

As a teaching assistant, expect a vibrant, ever-evolving role that places you at the heart of the classroom. Your days will be filled with a variety of tasks, from assisting in lesson preparations to providing invaluable support to both teachers and students.

That being said, the role of a teaching assistant is more than just the tasks you undertake; it’s about the fulfilment of making a difference. Whether it’s that ‘aha’ moment when a pupil finally grasps a new concept, or becoming a much-needed role model by building a positive and trusting relationship, it’s about being a part of those small victories that collectively shape a young mind.

Are you looking to begin a rewarding career in teaching and education? Don’t just dream about making a difference, take action today! Browse our teaching assistant courses and get ready to inspire, support, and shape the next generation.

Related courses