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Becoming a HLTA


The role of a teaching assistant has evolved significantly over the years, and among them, Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs) stand as a pivotal role for the next generation of students. In this article, you will learn how to become a HLTA. We will also discuss the responsibilities that come with this position, the differences in pay compared to Level 2 and 3 teaching assistants, an in-depth ‘how-to’ (step-by-step) section that will take you through the process of being a higher level teaching assistant, and the crucial role HLTAs play in the educational system. 

Teaching Assistant Levels Explained

Before you begin your training, you should already have practical experience of working in a classroom. This will allow you to determine if a teaching assistant role aligns with their career aspirations. After all, there are different levels of teaching assistants that you can qualify as: 


Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools: This award is designed to prepare learners for work within a school setting, focusing on the knowledge required to support children in a way that improves their learning and development.


Level 3 Teaching Assistant Diploma: This is tailored for those already working in an educational environment or wish to become a Teaching Assistant.


Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning: Similar to the above, this covers a broad spectrum of areas, including child development, support for children and young people's behaviour, communication, and relationships.


Level 2 Teaching Assistant Certificate: This certificate will allow you to work as a Teaching Assistant in a school or college, requiring part-time voluntary work in a school for a few days a week.


Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning: The level 3 award will allow you to teach essential skills needed to work in schools, focusing on legislation, relationships, and developmental techniques required for the role.


Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning: Like the qualifications mentioned above, this certificate adds to the understanding and knowledge essential for working with children and young adults.


Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning: This diploma is aimed at working or aspiring to work in specialist support staff roles.


Each of these qualifications go to show that it is possible to become a teacher without a degree.

What is an HLTA?

A Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) is the next step in the educational career journey for teaching assistants. Achieving this status can be done through specialised training, such as by partaking in our higher level teaching assistant certificate course. 


Responsibilities of an HLTA

Upon completing a teaching assistant course online, you can gain the skills and knowledge necessary to assume extra responsibilities within the classroom. HLTAs, however, will take on more duties than a regular teaching assistant. These additional responsibilities may include:


  • Teaching Classes Independently: HLTAs have the ability to lead classes on their own, providing valuable educational support and instruction to students.
  • Covering Planned Absences: In the absence of the classroom teacher, HLTAs can step in and maintain the learning environment, ensuring continuity in the educational process.
  • Managing Other Learning Support Staff: HLTAs often play a crucial role in coordinating and supervising other learning support staff, ensuring that the educational needs of students are met effectively.


By being familiar with these extra skills and responsibilities, you can then increase your salary as a HLTA too!

How Much Can A HLTA Earn?

For full-time, permanent Teaching Assistants (TAs), salaries are based on their qualifications:

  • Level 1: £17,364 per annum.
  • Level 2: £18,000-£20,000 per annum.
  • Level 3 (including those with additional specialisms / SEN responsibilities): £25,000+ per annum.


Higher Level Teaching Assistants belong to either Level 2 or Level 3, depending on their qualifications and expertise. However, these salaries can vary between different schools and regions.

So, how much can an HLTA expect to earn on average? 

The average annual salary for an HLTA in the UK is approximately £23,400, which, on average, is ]around £12 per hour. Experienced HLTAs with plenty of knowledge and skills in the field can earn up to £28,917 per year. These figures reflect the rewarding nature of the role and the value placed on the HLTAs.

How Does an HLTA Differ from a TA (Teaching Assistant)?

A HLTA assumes all the responsibilities of a regular teaching assistant but operates with a higher level of accountability and expertise. They are highly skilled and possess more knowledge of specific areas of the curriculum. Working closely with guidance from a teacher, HLTAs fulfil specific roles and responsibilities tailored to their specific education sector.


We offer more advice in the realm of teaching, including how to become a maths teacher.

Requirements to Become an HLTA

Becoming a Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) is an achievable goal for standard teaching assistants already working in education. However, certain requirements must be met.

Firstly, to obtain a HLTA status, you must currently be employed as a teaching assistant and have the support and endorsement of your school's headteacher. The headteacher plays a pivotal role in ensuring that you are a suitable candidate for this elevated role and that there is a specific role within the school where your HLTA expertise can be effectively applied. After this process, you and your headteacher will work together to identify any particular training or development needs required to meet the established HLTA standards.

Becoming a Level 2 Teaching Assistant

If you're considering a career as a teaching assistant but aren't sure where to start, the Level 2 teaching assistant qualification is the perfect place to start. While it's not mandatory to complete the Level 2 course before starting your Level 3, it's an ideal choice if you lack prior experience of working in a school.


Level 2 teaching assistant qualification requires less work experience than a level 3, making it accessible to newcomers to the field. However, remember that, as a Level 2 Teaching Assistant, your responsibilities may be more limited, which can impact your salary expectations.


During the Level 2 teaching assistant course, you will understand the fundamental aspects of the role, including child development, child welfare, and effective communication with both young people and adults. Once qualified, your responsibilities may include:


  • Providing valuable feedback to teachers regarding the progress of all students and highlighting any areas of concern.
  • Assisting with lesson planning, contributing to the creation of a productive learning environment.
  • Engaging with parents to maintain open lines of communication between home and school.
  • Handling administrative tasks such as photocopying, filing, and managing school funds.


As a Level 2 Teaching Assistant, you can expect your annual salary to range from £18,000 to £20,000. Many Teaching Assistants work part-time or during term-time only, so actual earnings are typically calculated on a pro-rata basis. This concept also applies to the average earnings of more experienced Teaching Assistants.


Becoming a Level 3 Teaching Assistant

For those seeking a deeper understanding of the role and a broader skill set, the Level 3 Teaching Assistant qualification is a popular choice. Completing a Level 3 qualification gives you the necessary skills and knowledge to confidently assist in classrooms. If you are certain about pursuing a career as a Teaching Assistant, you can often bypass Level 2 and proceed directly to Level 3.


The Level 3 teaching assistant qualification builds upon the foundational concepts introduced in Level 2, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the role. Level 3 qualifications are frequently required for more specialised positions, especially those involving students with special educational needs (SEN). Level 3 Teaching Assistants, particularly those with SEN specialisations, typically earn an annual salary of around £25,000.


After qualifying as a level 3, you may still work under the supervision of the classroom teacher. Responsibilities as a newly qualified level 3 Teaching Assistant include:


  • Preparing the classroom before lessons, ensuring a conducive learning environment.
  • Collaborating with teachers to plan engaging and educational activities.
  • Engaging in activities such as listening to students read or reading stories to them.


You can learn more about this section in our guide on how to become a teaching assistant.


Step by Step Guide On How To Become a HLTA


Earning the Level 4 Certificate in Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) is highly recommended to advance your career as a teaching assistant. This certificate is offered by various universities and further education colleges across the country as well.


The Level 4 HLTA certification is made up of seven mandatory units, ensuring that you have a thorough understanding of the role and responsibilities:


  1. Understanding the role of a HLTA.
  2. Child development welfare.
  3. Being aware of special educational needs (SEN).
  4. To promote positive behaviour in children and young adults.
  5. Providing adequate support for learners and small groups.
  6. To develop skills and promote positive working relationships between peers and children.
  7. Planning, delivering, and assessing the current curriculum.


One crucial aspect to keep in mind is that this course necessitates observation while working in a school with children. Therefore, aspiring HLTAs must already be engaged in employment or volunteer work as teaching assistants to complete this certification.

The full set of requirements to pursue HLTA certification includes:


    • Being at least 16 years of age.
    • Possessing strong literacy skills.
    • Working in a school as a teaching assistant for a minimum of 12 hours per week.
    • Accumulating at least 50 hours of classroom experience.
    • Demonstrating adherence to the 33 HLTA professional standards.
    • Having English and mathematics skills at Level 2 or an equivalent qualification.
    • Proficiency in using information and communication technology (ICT) to support your work.
    • Training in relevant learning strategies, such as literacy.
    • Holding specialist skills or training in a specific curriculum area, such as sign language.


How Can an HLTA Benefit Your School?


The role of a Higher-Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) brings plenty of benefits to the school that they are employed to. Its flexibility allows HLTAs to adapt seamlessly to the ever-evolving needs of the educational environment. 


Employing HLTAs helps to create an environment where teachers can teach and students can learn together. By providing essential support, HLTAs allow teachers to focus on the core aspects of their role, thereby enhancing the quality of education. 


Furthermore, HLTAs can assume lead roles in managing and supporting other staff members, effectively reducing the workload on teachers. 


In summary, by becoming a HLTA, you can provide back to the school you are employed by for:


  • Maintaining Continuity: HLTAs can seamlessly step into various roles, ensuring that the learning environment remains consistent and productive.
  • Upholding High Expectations: Their expertise and experience enable HLTAs to maintain high standards of behaviour and academic achievement among students.
  • Enhancing Teaching and Learning: HLTAs free up teachers to focus on teaching, creating a more effective and engaging learning experience for students.
  • Supporting Staff: By taking on lead roles and assisting other staff members, HLTAs contribute to a harmonious and efficient school environment.


We have plenty of articles related to the learning and teaching sector. Check out these online learning facts for 2023, as well as what qualifications you need to become a teacher.



What are the different levels of teaching assistants?

In the UK, teaching assistants (TAs) are often categorised into different levels based on their qualifications, experience, and responsibilities. These levels typically include:

  • Level 1 (TA1): Entry-level assistants who provide general support. They usually work under direct supervision.
  • Level 2 (TA2): TAs with some experience and might have a relevant qualification. They assist with planning, monitoring, and assessing students.
  • Level 3 (TA3): More experienced TAs who often have advanced qualifications. They can deliver lessons under the supervision of a teacher and might assist with lesson planning.
  • Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA): HLTAs have further training and can teach classes on their own, cover short-term absences, and more specialised tasks.

Is a Level 4 teaching assistant the same as HLTA?

The term "Level 4 teaching assistant" isn't standard across all educational institutions. However, in many contexts, the HLTA status is often considered equivalent to or sometimes referred to as a Level 4 qualification. 


Sources (n.d.) Hlta Higher Level Teaching Assistant average salary in the United Kingdom, 2023. Talent. [online] Available at: [accessed 19/10/23]