What is a Teaching Assistant?
A teaching assistant (TA) or classroom assistant is someone who is based in a nursery or school and supports both the teacher and the students in a classroom setting. 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 qualified and experienced. 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 from 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 as a TA 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 the 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.
Level 2 courses
If you have no previous childcare qualifications, the following are recognised knowledge-based courses that will act as a stepping stone on a level 3 course:
- Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning
- Level 2 in Support Work in Schools and Colleges
Level 3 courses
We also have a suite of NCFE CACHE Level 3 nested qualifications in Supporting Teaching and Learning which are nationally recognised qualifications that will allow you to become a qualified teaching assistant:
- NCFE CACHE Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning – this is the first step within the nested qualification and is suitable for those not yet working in a level 3 school role but are capable of achieving this level.
- NCFE CACHE Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning – this course follows on from the award and is the next step to the nested qualification. This course requires you to complete a placement within a school setting in the UK.
- CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Supporting Teaching and Learning – the Diploma is the final step in the nested qualification. You can also earn up to 32 UCAS points which can be used as part of an application to higher education.
Find out more about our suite of Level 3 qualifications 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 in 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 dependent on your level of qualifications and experience and the job role listed.
- Starting salaries can start from £11,500 (depending on hours)
- Those with increased responsibility can earn up to £18,000
- HLTA’s can be earning up to £23,000
There is no national pay scale for teaching assistants so pay will 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 the school holidays, which will change 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 work as a teaching assistant through an agency. Just like with cover teachers, agencies employ teaching assistants and send them out to different schools for sickness cover. You tend to get a higher rate through agency work, but 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 parent’s 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 enrolling 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.
For more information on our courses in childcare and education, download our free guide.
You can also contact one of our friendly advisers to find out more.