How to Get a Job as a Teaching Assistant – A Practical Guide

How to Get a Job as a Teaching Assistant – A Practical Guide

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Teaching Assistants (TAs) are valued members of a school’s staff and an amazing resource in any classroom. With vacancies across the education sector (including primary and secondary schools, pupil referral units and colleges) there are many opportunities to become a teaching assistant.

Schools and colleges are increasingly looking for TAs that are both qualified and experienced. Employers welcome applications from people who have experience in other work sectors and industries, as they bring valuable knowledge and skills to the classroom.

But how do you get started?

What Does a Teaching Assistant Do?
Teaching Assistants support the teacher and the students. We associate TAs with working with under-achieving children or pupils with additional learning needs, but TAs are also used by classroom teachers to challenge gifted children.

The role that a TA fills will vary from one school or college to another:

  • Some TAs are employed by a Local Authority and can be tasked with working with a pupil on a one-to-one basis, following them throughout their school career. Some children that require one-to-one support will have significant and complex needs.
  • TAs are also employed directly by schools, and their role can vary on a day to day basis. They can work one-to-one with students for part of their timetable, and deliver small group work sessions. Some TAs, known as a Higher Learning Teaching Assistant (HLTA), will cover lessons for absent colleagues, delivering pre-planned lessons.
  • TAs are also used in other support capacities, such as supervising breaks and lunchtimes. They might run after school clubs and breakfast clubs and facilitate extra reading group.
  • It is a hands-on role. Many TAs create additional learning resources that support learning in the classroom, such as displays and posters. They can help the class teacher prepare for important dates in the academic year, and they can be instrumental in forming bridges between parents and the school.

Essential Skills
As a TA, you will need to show a range of diverse skills:

  • A genuine passion for working with children, helping them to gain as much as possible from their education
  • Excellent communication skills
  • The ability to build relationships between the student, their parents, their teacher and the school community as a whole
  • Confidence to deal with a wide range of issues, including behavioural issues
  • Be creative, flexible and organised
  • Be calm, no matter what the situation
  • Have a high level of literacy and numeracy skills

How to Get a Job as a Teaching Assistant

#1 Get Qualified
There is no requirement for a TA to be qualified, so it may seem strange to suggest starting with this point.

However, schools and colleges are increasingly aware of the very complex needs of some of their students. They are also aware that in order to provide a high-quality education that is accessible for all of their students, they need to offer a range of educational experiences. TAs are an important part of this big picture.

Being a qualified TA means that the school or college has confidence in your abilities and your skills, and they trust in your professionalism as an educational provider working within the establishment.

There are many TA qualifications that show employers that you have the ability to work with children and young people. These include:

A Level 2 Teaching Assistant Certificate or a Level 3 Teaching Assistant Diploma both cover the basics of being a TA in an educational setting. The average duration of the Level 3 Diploma is 200 hours of study, with NCC providing expert tutor support for 12 months.

The Level 4 Higher Level Teaching Assistant course shows an employer you are capable of facilitating small group work sessions and delivering work prepared by the classroom teacher. This course is 240 hours of study over a timeframe that suits you. To support your learning on this course, volunteering in the classroom will cement your knowledge if you don’t already work in a school or college.

As well gaining qualifications as a TA, you can expand your skill set with awareness raising or specialist qualifications, such as working with children with speech and language needs, and behavioural issues as well as mental health issues, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). There are also courses that help with understanding autism and other similar issues and illnesses.

By holding these specialist qualifications, you show potential employers that you have the abilities and skills to help all children access education.

#2 Secure a Placement or Volunteer
Being a TA is an active role. It can be demanding, and even though you may think you are only working 9 until 3 pm (hours will vary!), those six hours are full of non-stop activities.

Employers look for an understanding of the educational setting, and so volunteering or arranging a placement in a school or college will strengthen your applications. Most schools welcome volunteers and will be happy to provide you with a short reference at the end of your time at their school.

A short placement or a term volunteering is valuable if you lack the practical experience of being in school. If you have not been in a school or college for a long time, you will be amazed at how much the lessons have changed.

#3 Search for Vacancies
TA posts are regularly advertised in different places, depending on the employer;

  • Local Authorities will often have a jobs board on their website that will include educational jobs
  • Schools and colleges who employ TAs directly will often advertise the posts in local, regional and national newspapers
  • Check out online job sites such as Total Jobs and Indeed – you can save your search preferences and have new job vacancies emailed to you directly as they are posted to the sites

Before applying, it is important that you thoroughly research the TA post. Because TA roles vary so widely, you need to be confident that you know what is being asked of you. For example, TAs who work with disabled students can be responsible for their personal care during the day. Other schools amalgamate many duties into the role of TA, such as First Aid.

Schools and colleges are different, and each has a different ethos and style of education. Before you apply, you need to assess if the school, college or educational setting looks to be an environment you would want to be a part of?

#4 Submitting Your Application
HINT – don’t leave the application process to the last minute. Take the time to work on the application form, covering letter and your CV so that you respond to a job vacancy with a strong application that secures you an interview.

You will need to follow the application process as laid out by the local authority, school or college. Some now encourage applications online, as this reduces costs of paper and postage and streamlines the process. Read through the application process notes thoroughly before applying.

  • The application form – print out two copies of the application form, using one as a draft and the other as the duplicate copy that you will send to the employer. Stick to the point – the time to expand on your answers is in the interview.
  • Your CV – some application forms will encourage CVs to be attached alongside, but do not submit your CV in place of the application form. The interview panel will want the same level and kind of information from each candidate; submitting just your CV might make this process difficult for them, and you are unlikely to be called for an interview. Make sure that your CV is up to date and clear to read, with your qualifications and experiences well-written. Your key points need to stand out. Carefully proofread your CV before you send it in.
  • A cover letter – it normally polite to include a covering letter along with your application form and CV. If the application form does not ask ‘why are you applying for this post?’, you could answer this question in your covering letter. You want to tell the employer why your skills and qualifications are the perfect match for the job. If you complete this as part of the application form, you should keep your covering letter lighter in detail but still emphasise key points that show you are the right person for the job.

#5 The Interview
The interview is a chance for you to shine and show the interviewing panel that you have what it takes, professionally and personally to work as a TA.

The most important preparation you can do for any interview is to research the school, what if offers, how it is offered and the role that a TA would play in school life as a whole.

Why Study with NCC Home Learning?
NCC is fast becoming a leading online provider of courses, including high-quality Teaching Assistant courses online. With fantastic courses and expert tutor support, we have helped hundreds of students to gain the qualifications and skills they need to bag a promotion or change the direction of their career completely.

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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