Teaching assistants support teachers and help children with their educational and social development, both in and out of the classroom. In secondary schools, teaching assistants are often known as learning support assistants.
The roles and responsibilities of teaching assistants are varied and differ between schools. Your job can include:
- getting the classroom ready for lessons
- listening to children read, reading to them or telling them stories
- helping children who need extra support to complete tasks
- helping teachers to plan learning activities and complete records
- supporting teachers in managing class behaviour
- supervising group activities
- looking after children who are upset or have had accidents
- clearing away materials and equipment after lessons
- helping with outings and sports events
- taking part in training
- carrying out administrative tasks
To support pupils with particular individual needs, some teaching assistants work one-to-one, while others work in small groups. Many schools employ teaching assistants with particular specialisms, including literacy, numeracy, Special Educational Needs (SEN), music and creative arts. If you are bilingual, you might do more work with children whose first language is not English.
Experienced and specially-trained teaching assistants can be expected to supervise a class for a teacher who is off sick or undertaking training. While every class must be allocated a qualified teacher, Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs) would be expected occasionally to lead a lesson.
Skills and experience you’ll need
- An ability to build good working relationships with both pupils and adults
- Good organisational skills
- Flexibility and creativity
- Enjoy working with children
- Good literacy and numeracy skills
- Ability to manage groups of pupils and deal with challenging behaviour
- Patience and a sense of humour
- In some jobs it could be useful if you have IT skills or are fluent in local community languages
Individual schools set their own entry requirements and decide which qualifications and experience they need. You can get an idea of what you're likely to need by looking at jobs advertised locally. Many will require you to have qualifications in literacy and numeracy at GCSE or equivalent.
Previous qualifications in nursery work, childcare, playwork or youth work can be useful for finding work.
The following qualifications are available for those not yet employed in the role:
- Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools
- Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
However, these awards are solely theory-based, without requiring a placement in a school, so it is important to check with the school whether they would accept the qualification.
You may be able to become a teaching assistant through an apprenticeship scheme. The range of apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need.
Before you can begin working with children, the school will carry out enhanced background checks through the Disclouse and Barring Service (DBS).
Disclosure and Barring Service
Training and development
Once working as a teaching assistant you should complete an induction programme. New and experienced teaching assistants can expand their knowledge by taking other qualifications such as:
- Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
- Level 3 Certificate Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
- Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools
These qualifications are available at local colleges and through apprenticeships. To gain the certificate and diploma you would be assessed at work, so your job would need to include responsibilities suited to each qualification.
With experience, you may be able to progress to senior assistant or be assessed for Higher Level Teaching Assistant Status.
As an experienced teaching assistant, you may be able to study for a foundation degree. You can find a list of courses by searching under 'Teaching Assistant Studies' in the subject group section of the UCAS foundation degree website.
UCAS foundation degree website
Some TAs go on to train as teachers. So if you’re thinking of going into teaching in the long term, then working as a TA can be an excellent place to start your teaching career. To find out more about careers in teaching, see the Get into Teaching website.
Get into Teaching website
Note: In Scotland the term 'Classroom Assistant' and 'Pupil Support Assistant' is used more than 'Teaching Assistant'. For more information contact Skills Development Scotland: www.myworldofwork.co.uk
In Northern Ireland contact Careers Service Northern Ireland: www.nidirect.gov.uk/careers
In Wales / Cymru contact Careers Wales: www.careerswales.com