How to become a Teaching Assistant

What is a Teaching Assistant?

A teaching assistant (TA) or classroom assistant is someone who is based in a nursery or school who is there to support both the teacher and the students in a classroom setting. However, job roles vary at different levels and the role of a teaching assistant has become even more important than it was before.

Teaching assistants are now considered a professional in education and it is important to be as qualified and as experienced as you can. They work in both primary and secondary schools as well as special needs schools and nurseries. Teaching assistants can also work in college or education centre settings.

Teaching assistants’ roles can involve anything from taking small groups of pupils out of the classroom for learning activities, to covering a lesson, or even supporting those pupils with extra needs (SEN).

What are the responsibilities of a TA?

The responsibilities of a TA (teaching assistant) are different and range from each role. These will also be dependant on the level or experience. Every job role is different so read the spec carefully.

Some TA’s may be employed to help support the learning of a specific individual and solely work with that one pupil or support a class teacher with delivering lessons and learning activities.

Your role may include:

  • Listening to children read and recording their progress
  • Reading and writing activities with the class or small groups
  • Helping teachers set up lesson activities / tidying away
  • Creating and putting up displays
  • Supporting teachers to manage class behaviour
  • Supporting teacher in running a class smoothly
  • Ensuring each pupil is on task / can understand the work set
  • Organising learning activities with small groups of children
  • Supervising group activities
  • Breaktime and lunchtime supervision

These are just some basic responsibilities you may be required to carry out. These will depend on your job role, level and experience. Some teaching assistants work one-to-one whilst others might work closely with a specific group of pupils.

How to become a Teaching Assistant

At least some basic form of training and experience is needed to become a teaching assistant as the standard entry requirement. The more experience you have (volunteering or work placement) within a classroom setting the better as it’ll help you when it comes to getting a job role as a teaching assistant.

Qualifications you’ll need

Each role will have its own set of specific entry requirements and these will involve the qualifications you’ll need to be eligible for the role.

The most basic qualifications you will need to have are Literacy and Numeracy (maths or English) GCSE or equivalent e.g. Functional skills. As a teaching assistant, you’ll need to be confident in maths and English to be able to support pupils in their learning. You may also be required to sit a competency test.

You will also need at least one basic qualification related to or involving childcare.

If you have no previous childcare qualifications, the following are recognised knowledge based courses that will act as a stepping stone onto a level 3 course.

Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning

Level 2 in Support Work in Schools and Colleges

The following course will enable you to become a fully qualified teaching assistant and set you apart from the competition. It includes placement hours and work based assessment:

NCFE CACHE Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning

Each school or education centre will be different so it’s important to check the entry requirements with the workplace.

Required skills and qualities

There are certain qualities you will need to have in order to become a teaching assistant and these are what employers will look for within an application or interview.

  • Numeracy, literacy and reading skills to be able to support pupils with their learning
  • Organised with your work
  • Excellent communication skills both with pupils, colleagues and parents
  • To have patience, as you will be working with pupils with a range of abilities and backgrounds
  • A positive approach to working with children
  • Ability to motivate, inspire and build rapport
  • A strong regard for pupil safety and well-being
  • communication and interpersonal skills to build relationships with pupils, parents, teachers and governors
  • Excellent team working skills for working with other support staff, classroom teachers and professionals such as educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, social workers and external agencies
  • Creative ability
  • Patience
  • A flexible approach to work, as you’ll be involved in a range of school-related activities such as cooking, art and science projects and forest school
  • Organisational skills
  • A professional attitude to work
  • A willingness to keep up to date with educational policy and training related to your role.

Teaching Assistant Salary

Salaries will vary dependant on your level of qualifications and experience and the job role listed.

  • Starting salaries can start from £11,500 (dependant on hours)
  • Those with increased responsibility can earn up to £18000
  • HLTA’s can be earning up to £23000

There is no national pay scale for teaching assistants so pay will definitely range with different employers. It will also vary on the hours required. For example, you may be expected to run some breakfast and after school clubs and activities throughout school holidays, which will have an effect on your overall salary.

Independent and private schools don’t have to follow teaching assistant pay guidelines from the government so this will also differ.

You can also be a teaching assistant through an agency. Just like with cover teachers, agencies employ teaching assistants and send them out to different schools for the cover of sickness. You tend to get a higher rate through agency work, but it isn’t a stable role and hours aren’t guaranteed.

What to expect as a Teaching Assistant

What is often attractive for someone pursuing a teaching assistant career is the hours.

A teaching assistant will typically work during school hours, 32 to 40 hours, Monday to Friday. They will not normally be able to take any holiday during term time, but will get school term holidays as their annual leave.

Quite often, teaching assistants will be asked to support activities and clubs such as breakfast and after school clubs. They may be asked to support the teacher with parents evenings as well.

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.

One of the many benefits of enroling as a student with us is that we will help you even after your studies are finished. We work with a recruitment specialist who can help you secure a position in your dream career. Contact us to find out more.