The role of a Teaching Assistant (TA) is a very rewarding and varied one. As a TA, you can support pupils and students as they learn in a nursery, school or college. The job can involve working with a whole class, groups of children or individual children. TAs also help to prepare resources and undertake class admin tasks, such as collecting money for trips.
Some TAs specialise in working the children with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) such as difficulties with hearing or vision.
PERSONAL QUALITIES AND SKILLS
- A genuine enjoyment of the company of children and young people
- A flexible attitude to work, with the ability to “think on your feet”
- Understanding of child protection issues
- Ability to manage challenging behaviour
- Ability to work under the direction of the teacher and take the initiative where necessary, adapting plans and activities
- Good communication skills
- Ability to build relationships with other staff, children, parents and other professionals
- Good organisational skills
- Good english and maths skills
- Enthusiasm and energy
- A skill such as a foreign language, musical ability, artistic ability or an interest in sports can be an advantage for specialised roles
No formal qualifications are set out for becoming a TA, but you need to have a good standard of English and Maths, usually to GCSE level. Many TAs train on the job, and it is also possible to gain a qualification before you get a job, such as the Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools. These are available at FE colleges, and online, and will require you to get some work experience in schools. Many schools are also offering TA apprenticeships.
A degree is not necessary to become a TA, but it may give you an advantage over other candidates.
Before training or working in a school or college in England or Wales, you will need to have a satisfactory enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check. In Scotland you will need a Disclosure, and in Northern Ireland a Criminal Record check. This ensures that adults in schools and colleges do not have any convictions which would bar them from working with children. Your school will arrange this for you.
Staff working in nurseries also need to complete a self disclosure form, on which you must disclose if anyone in your household has a conviction of a violent crime or a crime against children. In some instances you may be barred from working with children if you live with someone convicted of such an offence.
DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES
- Support pupils as directed by the teacher. This may be in a small group or individually with a pupil, for example.
- Prepare resources, for example photocopying and putting up displays.
- Promote good pupil behaviour, dealing promptly with conflict and incidents in line with established policy.
- Support children in their social and emotional development.
- Provide extra-curricular opportunities, for example after school clubs or lunch time activities.
- Work in partnership with the teacher to monitor pupil progress and plan appropriate learning experiences.
- Assist with the development and implementation of Individual Education/Behaviour Plans and Personal Care programmes.
- Encourage pupils to interact with others and engage in activities as directed by the teacher and using own imitative.
- Take part in training as required by the school.
- Go on trips and visits, taking responsibility for a group of children.
- Oversee playtimes and make them a positive experience.
- Administer first aid.
SALARY RANGE AND BENEFITS
Starting salaries are about £11,000 (FTE). It is possible to earn up to £25,000 as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA). Part time working is often possible. You should have access to a pension scheme. TA pay is calculated differently by different schools and some schools pay “term time only”, meaning you do not receive pay for the holidays. Under this arrangement, you are usually paid every month as your salary is only paid for the hours you actually work, but is divided by 12.
If a school runs holiday clubs, there may be an opportunity to work during the holidays too.
Permanent contracts are available, but many TAs start off in a temporary or fixed term contract in the first instance. Often school funding is unpredictable, particularly if the role involves one-to-one support as the need for this can change quite quickly if a child leaves the school.
Some supply agencies recruit TAs and this can be a good way in to the job.
These figures are an indication only.
HOURS OF WORK
Generally TAs work school hours during term time. The role may also involve some hours outside the standard school day, for example if you work in Breakfast Club.
Holidays are in line with school holidays, if you are full time, you will be expected to work 195 days a year, including 5 training days.
Independent and private schools may have longer holidays.
FINDING A JOB
Teaching Assistant roles are often advertised at local level, in a jobs bulletin, so find the ones for your local area and sign up for email alerts. Schools and colleges will often advertise on their website, in local press and recruitment agencies too.
INSERVICE TRAINING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Schools provide regular training for TAs as part of their whole school professional development. It is possible to gain a TA qualification such as Level 3 Certificate Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools , through your school, or an FE college. You may also be able to study for a foundation degree.
An experienced TA can progress to HLTA status by undertaking an HLTA course. HLTAs take on greater responsibility, for example teaching the whole class on their own and managing other TAs in their department. The qualification involves demonstrating that you meet the HLTA standards and may be delivered by a local FE or HE institution, or a private training provider. They can also be taken online. These courses are usually funded by the school or college, so you will need your Head or Principal’s permission and support.
Many TAs go on to train to be a teacher.
FIND OUT MORE
Interested in being a TA? The best course of action is to arrange some work experience in a school or college. Many schools welcome volunteers and this can be a good way into a school or a good way to get a supporting reference.