Celebrating Teaching Assistants’ Contribution to Education.

Ahead of National Teaching Assistant Day on 16 September 2015, we thought we would turn the spotlight on teaching assistants to find out more about their role in schools, and of course, celebrate the invaluable contribution they make within the schools’ workforce, and to the education system as a whole.

Teaching Assistants’ Role in Schools

Teaching assistants’ roles can vary enormously from school to school, with varied responsibilities and experiences. Despite no two teaching assistants’ jobs being the same, however, there are some common themes that unite their work in schools.

 A typical day for a teaching assistant can include supporting pupils with special educational needs (SEN), working with small groups of students to provide literacy and numeracy support, preparing a classroom before lessons and tidying up after the lesson has finished, helping out with school events and outings, and providing administrative and technical support.

 Teaching assistants have to be familiar with current educational policy and how it is implemented day to day. This includes child protection, SEN, behavior management, and disability equality. Perhaps, and most obviously, teaching assistants have to have a passion and commitment to education, and to helping teachers and schools raise and achieve high standards.

 Clearly, with a role this diverse, teaching assistants have to possess numerous skills and qualities to succeed in their job. From effective communication skills to excellent organisational skills, teaching assistants have to be flexible and adaptable to thrive in the classroom, while being fully informed on school policies and practice. The role is certainly a demanding one, but as we know from our own work, those who choose to work in schools and commit to a career in education do so because it’s a fulfilling and inspiring career choice.

 According to the National Teaching Assistants’ Day website, 96 per cent of head teachers say that teaching assistants add value to their school, while Unison’s Welsh secretary Margaret Thomas also confirmed the importance of teaching assistants to schools, saying that “schools in Wales cannot survive without teaching assistants”.

 This highlights just how essential teaching assistants have become to the overall success of a school and its performance, and we welcome the recognition that support staff and teaching assistants are now getting for their work and contribution.

Celebrating National Teaching Assistant Day

Schools are being invited to join in celebrating National Teaching Assistant Day by downloading the party banner template and selfie frame on the National Teaching Assistants’ Day website. Last year, schools held parties and included special mentions of their teaching assistants during assemblies. This annual event reminds us of just how important teaching assistants have become to our education system, and we hope you will take the time to mark the occasion in your school on 16 September 2015.

Career choices and CPD for Teaching Assistants

The Government launched a consultation on raising standards for teaching assistants in 2014. The then Minister for Education, David Laws said that “Good teaching assistants are essential to driving up standards in the classroom and helping students fulfill their full potential”.

So, what does this mean for teaching assistants? In the not too distant future, a new set of standards will focus on the performance, personal development and how best schools can use teaching assistants’ skills and expertise. You can find out more about the new standards by reading the ‘Review of standards for teaching assistants’ article, linked to under the ‘Useful links’ section, below.

Raising Standards for Teaching Assistants

96 per cent of head teachers say that teaching assistants add value to their school

For those who want to progress and develop their career, becoming a higher level teaching assistant (HLTA) is a career step many teaching assistants have chosen to make. The main distinction between the two roles is that higher level teaching assistants carry greater responsibility in their job, carrying out tasks which can include providing PPA cover, teaching classes, and covering teacher absence.

Teaching assistants who wish to progress to become a HLTA should have NQF level 2 in literacy and numeracy. There is also an HLTA preparation course and assessment process that aspiring teaching assistants have to undergo. If you are currently a teaching assistant and interested in becoming a HLTA, speak to the head teacher in the first instance to discuss your options, and the process for progression.

Other career development opportunities available for teaching assistants include The Department for Education’s Train to Teach event. The information evening on 6 January 2016 is suitable for teaching assistants who are considering a career in teaching. To register, visit the Get into Teaching website, in the ‘Useful links’ section.

Teaching Assistant Jobs

While we are busy celebrating teaching assistants achievements on 16 September, we would like to remind you of The Educator’s jobs listing for support staff and teaching assistants. We advertise a wide range of vacancies, to give you a choice selection in schools and locations, helping you to find the job that is right for you. Our jobs board is continually updated, so if you are looking for your next teaching assistant role, have a look over the site to see what is available.

Useful links

The useful link section includes links to articles and resources listed in this article.

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