Career insights: Become a Teaching Assistant
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Are you interested in becoming a teacher's assistant and wondering how to get started? A teaching assistant plays a critical role in the classroom, supporting the teacher and creating a positive learning environment for students. However, with increasing competition for roles, it's important to understand how to become a teaching assistant and what steps you need to take to succeed in this rewarding career. This article will provide guidance on the education and training requirements, necessary skills, and tips for finding employment in the field, giving you a roadmap on how to be a teaching assistant.
What Is A Teaching Assistant?
Teaching assistants play a vital role in modern day classrooms, as they provide support to teachers and pupils alike. Qualified and experienced TAs are now incredibly sought after in schools since they help to support and challenge pupils through a wide range of activities, setting them up for success. You may also hear teaching assistants referred to as a teacher's aide, paraprofessional or para-educator.
Although teaching assistants principally work in primary and secondary schools, they may also be employed in nursery and higher education facilities, including colleges. Depending on the requirements for the institution, a TA may support children with specific learning disabilities or provide help to a class in general.
Depending on the terms of their employment, teaching assistants may be employed by a local council and work across a range of schools in the area. On the other hand, they may also be contracted to work in one particular school, where they will be expected to use their skills across a range of learning environments.
What Are The Everyday Roles and Responsibilities of A Teaching Assistant?
As a teaching assistant, you can expect everyday to be different. However, some of the common roles and responsibilities you can expect to take on include:
- Delivering tailored learning activities in small group or one-to-one settings
- Ensuring pupils are engaged and staying on task during lessons or activities
- Supporting social and emotional development and raising concerns according to school policy
- Managing challenging behaviour
- Guiding and monitoring student progress
- Providing administrative support such as preparing resources
- Providing support outside of class, such as exam invigilation and covering absences
- Participating in extracurricular activities and covering lunch/break duties
- Coordinating teaching support (for higher level TAs)
- Setting up the classroom for lessons
- Helping children with tasks and reading/storytelling
- Preparing classrooms for lessons where necessary
- Assisting teachers with lesson planning and record keeping
- Supporting teachers in managing class behaviour
- Supervising group activities and providing care for upset or injured children
- Cleaning up after lessons and assisting with outings/sports events
- Participating in training and carrying out administrative tasks.
How Do Teaching Assistants Help Teachers?
Teaching assistants are an essential part of the education system in the UK, as they provide invaluable support to teachers in ensuring that pupils receive the best possible education. Their role is multifaceted, and they help teachers in many different ways.
One of the primary ways in which teaching assistants help teachers is by assisting with classroom management. They help to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment, which allows teachers to focus on delivering their lessons effectively. Teaching assistants can help to supervise pupils during lessons, ensuring that they are engaged and on-task, and can also provide support to pupils who may be struggling to keep up.
Another important way in which teaching assistants help teachers is by providing one-to-one support to pupils who need it. This might involve working with pupils who have special educational needs or disabilities, providing additional support and guidance to help them to achieve their full potential. Teaching assistants may also work with pupils who are falling behind in their studies, helping them to catch up and improve their grades.
Teaching assistants can also help teachers by preparing teaching materials and resources. They can help to create lesson plans, worksheets, and other materials that can be used in the classroom. They may also help to organise and manage classroom equipment, ensuring that everything is in place and ready to use when needed.
Finally, teaching assistants play an important role in building positive relationships with pupils and parents. They can act as a point of contact for parents who may have concerns or questions about their child's education, and can also help to foster positive relationships with pupils, building trust and helping them to feel supported and valued.
What Qualifications Do You Need To Become A Teaching Assistant?
You don’t need any specialist qualifications to become a teaching assistant, unless you plan to become an advanced teaching assistant. However, most schools require you to have a good educational grounding through your GCSE grades and a proficiency in Maths and English.
That being said, some employers will ask for a relevant TA qualification. Recognised qualifications for teaching assistants include:
- Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools
- Level 3 Teaching Assistant Diploma
- Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
- Level 2 Teaching Assistant Certificate
- Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
- Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools
- TQUK Level 4 Award for Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA)
- TQUK Level 4 Diploma for Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTA)
- Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTA) Certificate Level 4 RQF
You may also be asked to submit to a criminal record check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). However, not all employers will ask for this.
Good Skills For A Teaching Assistant To Have
Having the right qualifications is certainly beneficial to becoming a teaching assistant. However, there are certain skills and traits that will greatly benefit you in the role. As a teaching assistant primarily works with children, the personality and skills it would be advantageous to possess are more particular than for other roles.
Some good skills for a teaching assistant to have are:
- Understanding the learning and development of children
- Conflict resolving
- Observation and evaluation
- Behavioural adjustment for pupils
- Ability to help children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
- Problem solving
- Effective communication
- Professional attitude
- Positive outlook
- Excellent team work ethic
How To Become A Teaching Assistant
Understanding how to get a job as a teaching assistant is not as straightforward as it may seem. There are several routes you can take into this role. Here, we’ll break each of them down.
Go To College
Most colleges will offer a range of recognised TA qualifications that you can complete. Usually, these courses take around 12 months to complete. However, if you choose a part time course, it will take longer. If you are already working as a TA, your employer may allow you a study day to attend college and complete your work.
Earn Online Diplomas
There are plenty of online teaching assistant courses that you can complete to earn important, accredited qualifications. And they allow you to do so in your own time! So, if you’re juggling several things at the same time or want a more relaxed learning atmosphere, you can choose when you study and work with a flexible online diploma.
Complete On-The-Job Training
Some teaching assistants gain employment first and undertake training through their employer. Often, schools will invest well in TA training (such as RQF qualifications) to equip their TAs when handling additional learning difficulties and behavioural challenges.
Apply For An Apprenticeship
You may train to be a teaching assistant through a Level 2 (intermediate) or Level 3 (advanced) apprenticeship. With a TA apprenticeship, you will work in a school during your training and earn a salary. Usually, this is the National Minimum Wage for apprentices; however, some schools may pay more than this.
To apply for an apprenticeship, you will usually need 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths.
As schools don’t usually have any higher education qualification requirements, you may be able to apply directly for a teaching assistant role. However, all openings will have different entry requirements, so make sure to read any job vacancies. You will also need to show that you can work well with children as well as adults.
Take a look at some of the most common teaching assistant interview questions.
How To Become A Teaching Assistant With No Experience
As you don’t need any qualifications or specific training to become a teaching assistant, it is possible to get the role with little experience. However, being able to demonstrate a committed, positive attitude and the ability to work with children is absolutely a must. To be able to show these skills to future employers, you can:
- Complete relevant awareness courses, such as courses Child Protection Procedures and additional learning needs
- Volunteer with children in your local community, like in a school or a Scouts or Brownies club
- Gain experience in childcare or babysitting
- Work in a library where students may go to study or to pick out books
Average Teaching Assistant Working Hours
Teaching assistant working hours are usually from Monday to Friday during term time, with their annual leave coinciding with school holidays. However, teaching assistants who work for boarding schools, free schools and academies may find that their hours vary and may include some weekend work or sessions. On average, TAs work for 32 - 40 hours per week, with some working from 9am to the end of the school day. Some schools may require teaching assistants to start earlier and finish an hour or so after the end of the school day, depending on extracurricular activities.
However, you should be aware that taking time off during term time is generally not allowed due to the vital role of TAs. Exceptions may be made in special cases, but this is usually at the discretion of the headteacher or line manager.
What Holidays Does A Teaching Assistant Get?
Teaching assistants in the UK typically work term-time only, which means they have the same holidays as schools. The exact dates of the holidays may vary depending on the school and the local authority, but the typical holiday periods for teaching assistants are:
Christmas holiday: This usually runs from the end of the school term in December until the beginning of the new term in January. The length of the Christmas holiday can vary, but it is typically around two weeks.
Easter holiday: This usually runs for two weeks in the spring, around the Easter period. The exact dates can vary depending on the school and local authority.
Half-term holidays: In addition to the Christmas and Easter holidays, teaching assistants also get a one-week half-term holiday in the autumn and spring terms. Again, the exact dates can vary depending on the school and local authority.
Summer holiday: The longest holiday period for teaching assistants is the summer holiday, which usually runs from the end of the summer term in July until the beginning of the new term in September. The length of the summer holiday can vary, but it is typically around six weeks.
It's important to note that although teaching assistants are not required to work during the holidays, they may be asked to attend training or development sessions during these periods. Additionally, some schools may offer teaching assistants the opportunity to work during the holidays on a voluntary basis to support pupils who need additional help.
What Is The Average Salary For A Teaching Assistant?
In the UK, the average salary for a TA is around £17,000 to £20,000 per year. However, a teaching assistant’s salary will vary depending on location, experience, and the type of school. Also, experienced TAs or those with additional responsibilities such as SEN support or pastoral care may have an increased salary.
Start your journey today with a teaching assistant online course.
Career Development Pathways for Teaching Assistants
There are various career development pathways available for trained and qualified teaching assistants. Beyond becoming a teacher or specialising in additional learning needs, TAs can progress in many different directions. However, some will require extra training. Some common career development pathways for teaching assistants include:
- Educational consultant or advisor
- Children’s counsellor
- Educational psychologist
- Senior teaching assistant
- Head teacher
- School business manager
- School administrator
- E-learning developer
- Content editor
What Sites Can I Use To Apply For Teaching Assistant Jobs?
- Eteach - Eteach is a UK-based education job site that includes a wide range of teaching assistant vacancies across the country. You can search for jobs by location, salary, contract type, and other factors.
- Tes Jobs - Tes Jobs is a popular UK education job site that includes a wide range of teaching assistant vacancies, as well as other education roles. You can search for jobs by location, salary, job type, and other factors.
- Indeed - Indeed is a general job search website that includes a large number of teaching assistant vacancies across the UK. You can search for jobs by location, salary, job type, and other factors.
- Nursery World Jobs - Nursery World Jobs is a UK-based job site that specializes in early years and childcare roles, including teaching assistant vacancies. You can search for jobs by location, salary, job type, and other factors.
- Guardian Jobs - Guardian Jobs is the job site for The Guardian newspaper, and includes a range of education and teaching assistant roles across the UK. You can search for jobs by location, salary, job type, and other factors.
- Total Jobs - Total Jobs is a general job search website that includes a range of teaching assistant vacancies across the UK. You can search for jobs by location, salary, job type, and other factors.
- Protocol Education - Protocol Education is a specialist education recruitment agency that includes a range of teaching assistant vacancies across the UK. You can search for jobs by location, salary, job type, and other factors.
- Using these job sites can help you to find a wide range of teaching assistant vacancies across the UK, allowing you to find the right role for your skills and experience. Good luck with your job search!
How To Become A Teaching Assistant: In Summary
Becoming a teaching assistant is not always an easy role, but it is certainly a rewarding one. You will help to shape the lives of children, share their successes and support them through rough patches. And by following our advice on how to become a teaching assistant, we’re sure you’ll see success!
Do you get paid to train as a teaching assistant?
Usually, if you complete an apprenticeship or similar program to train as a teaching assistant, your employer will pay you a fair salary. However, the amount you receive will depend on your work program and employer. For example, in 2023, the minimum wage for apprentices in the UK is set to rise to £5.28, although many employers will pay more than this.
Can you be a teaching assistant without going to uni?
Yes, it is possible to become a teaching assistant in the UK without a university degree. Although some employers may prefer candidates with a degree or relevant qualifications, it is not always a requirement. However, you will need good GCSE grades, particularly in English and Maths.
Do teaching assistants get holiday pay in the UK?
Yes, teaching assistants in the UK are entitled to holiday pay. As of 2023, the statutory minimum for paid holiday leave is 5.6 weeks per year (pro-rata for part-time workers), which includes bank holidays. This entitlement may vary depending on the specific contract or employer, but all teaching assistants in the UK are entitled to at least the statutory minimum.
Can a teaching assistant refuse to work with a child?
As a teaching assistant in the UK, you are expected to work with a wide range of children with varying needs and abilities. However, there may be exceptional circumstances where you may need to refuse to work with a particular child.
For example, if a child's behavior presents a risk to your own safety, or if the child is consistently disruptive and affecting the learning of other pupils, you may need to discuss the situation with your line manager or the school's designated safeguarding lead.
It's important to note that refusing to work with a child should be a last resort, and you should try to work with the school to find solutions to any issues you may be experiencing. If you have concerns about working with a particular child, it's important to discuss these with your line manager or the school's designated safeguarding lead to ensure that the child's needs are being met appropriately while also ensuring your own safety and wellbeing.
Ultimately, the welfare and safety of the children in your care should be your top priority, and you should work with the school to find appropriate solutions to any challenges you may be facing.
Can a teaching assistant teach a class on their own?
In general, teaching assistants in the UK are not expected to teach a class on their own. The role of a teaching assistant is to support the teacher in the classroom, helping with tasks such as preparing resources, working with individual students or small groups, and providing support during classroom activities.
However, there may be situations where a teaching assistant is required to take on a more independent role, such as when the teacher is absent due to illness or other circumstances. In these cases, the school may ask the teaching assistant to take on additional responsibilities, such as leading classroom activities or teaching a lesson.
If a teaching assistant is asked to teach a class on their own, they should feel comfortable to decline if they do not feel confident or competent to do so. In general, schools are required to ensure that teachers are suitably qualified and trained to teach classes independently, and teaching assistants are not typically expected to take on this responsibility.
If you are a teaching assistant and are asked to teach a class on your own, it's important to discuss your concerns with your line manager or the school's designated safeguarding lead, and to ensure that you receive appropriate support and training if required.
Do teaching assistants attend inset days?
Yes, teaching assistants in the UK are typically expected to attend inset days along with teachers and other school staff. Inset days, also known as staff training days, are set aside by schools for professional development and training for teachers and school staff.
During inset days, teachers and teaching assistants may attend training sessions, workshops, or team-building activities. The aim is to help staff develop their skills and knowledge so they can better support the learning and development of their pupils.
While attendance at inset days may be optional for some school staff members, teaching assistants are typically expected to attend, as they play a vital role in supporting the delivery of education in schools.
If you are a teaching assistant, it's important to check with your school to confirm their policy on inset days and attendance requirements. You may also wish to discuss any concerns or questions you have with your line manager or supervisor.
Do teaching assistants get holiday pay?
Yes, teaching assistants in the UK are entitled to receive holiday pay, in accordance with the law. The amount of holiday pay you are entitled to will depend on your employment status, contract terms, and length of service.
In general, all employees in the UK are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year, which is the equivalent of 28 days for a full-time employee. This includes bank holidays, although some employers may choose to include bank holidays in the 5.6 weeks of annual leave.
As a teaching assistant, you may also be entitled to additional holiday pay or leave depending on your employment contract and length of service. Some employers may offer enhanced holiday entitlements for long-serving staff or those with specific roles or responsibilities.
It's important to check your employment contract or speak to your employer to confirm your holiday entitlements and pay. Employers are required by law to provide written details of your holiday entitlements, so you should be able to find this information in your contract or employee handbook.
Overall, teaching assistants in the UK are entitled to receive holiday pay, and it's important to ensure that you take your entitlement and receive payment for any leave you take.
What do teaching assistants have to wear?
The dress code for teaching assistants in the UK will vary depending on the school and the specific role you are in. However, in general, teaching assistants are expected to dress in a professional and appropriate manner that is in keeping with the school's dress code and standards.
In most cases, this will mean dressing in smart and comfortable clothing that is appropriate for a school environment. It's important to avoid clothing that is too revealing or casual, such as shorts, flip flops, or low-cut tops. Instead, you may wish to opt for smart trousers, skirts, or dresses, along with comfortable shoes that are suitable for standing or walking around the classroom.
Some schools may also have specific requirements for clothing or uniform, such as wearing a particular colour or type of clothing. In these cases, you should ensure that you follow the school's guidelines and dress code policy.
Ultimately, the dress code for teaching assistants in the UK will depend on the school and the specific role you are in. If you are unsure of the dress code or have any questions, it's best to speak to your line manager or supervisor for guidance.
Which unions should teaching assistants join?
Teaching assistants in the UK are not required to join a union, but many choose to do so in order to receive support, guidance, and representation in their workplace. Joining a union can provide a range of benefits, including legal support, advice on employment rights and responsibilities, and access to training and development opportunities.
There are a number of unions in the UK that represent education workers, including teaching assistants. Some of the most well-known unions in this field include:
- UNISON - UNISON is the UK's largest union, representing more than 1.3 million members across a range of industries, including education. UNISON offers a range of services and benefits for education workers, including legal representation, advice on workplace issues, and training and development opportunities.
- NEU - The National Education Union (NEU) is the largest education union in the UK, with more than 450,000 members. The NEU represents a wide range of education workers, including teaching assistants, and offers support and advice on a range of issues, such as pay and working conditions.
- GMB - The GMB is a general trade union with more than 620,000 members across a range of industries, including education. The GMB offers support and representation for teaching assistants, as well as training and development opportunities.
- NASUWT - The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) is a trade union that represents teachers and school support staff, including teaching assistants. NASUWT offers a range of services and benefits for its members, including legal representation, advice on workplace issues, and training and development opportunities.
- ATL - The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) was formerly a separate union for teaching assistants, but merged with the NEU in 2017. Teaching assistants can join the NEU to access the same support and benefits that were previously provided by the ATL.
Overall, the choice of union will depend on your personal circumstances and needs, as well as the union's specific services and benefits. It's a good idea to research different unions and speak to colleagues or union representatives to help you make an informed decision.
How To Become a Teaching Assistant Infographic
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