What does a Teaching Assistant do? While the hint may seem to be in the job title, Teaching Assistants, or TAs, do much more than you may think. TAs enable teachers to focus on the task of delivering classes with minimal or no interruption while also ensuring students get the most out of each lesson. TAs, also known as a teacher’s aide, are the unsung heroes of the classroom.
TAs help students with their diverse educational and social needs both in and out of the classroom. Classrooms benefit hugely when TAs are on hand to take on tasks such as lesson preparations, additional communicative or educational support for students and supervisory tasks to name just a few.
A Teaching Assistant job is unlike any other educational role. You will have the opportunity to work in greater depth with fewer students while collaborating with a wide range of your school’s staff. The skills, enthusiasm and diversity that teaching assistants bring to the classroom are vital.
What kinds of teaching assistants are there?
Teaching Assistant jobs require a variety of tasks and duties and roles can involve ad-hoc or dedicated one to one support to children with specific or additional needs. You may also be required to provide class-wide support during lessons. You may be needed to assist with administration and management or support of children with particularly challenging behaviour. It takes skill and patience to maintain a productive learning environment for all of your students with so my duties to carry out at once.
With Early Years, SEN, Communication and Language and part-time teaching assistant jobs, as well as many other kinds - Teaching Assistant duties are so diverse that you can be sure a career as a teaching assistant will never be dull.
Some of the skills which will help you to be a successful teaching assistant include:
- Confidence, enthusiasm and a passion for learning.
- Excellent English skills with clear written and spoken English.
- Strong reading, writing and numeracy skills.
- Experience working with children, particularly knowledge and experience of behaviour management will be highly beneficial.
- Reliable social skills and the ability to build good working relationships with children, teachers, parents and carers.
- The ability to manage groups of children with complex and diverse social and communication needs.
- The ability to promote positive behaviour in a nurturing environment is essential.
Some teaching assistants specialise in certain areas which include:
- SEN or Special Educational Needs - Teaching Assistants work with students who have special needs and may need additional provision or even one to one assistance in the classroom.
- HLTA or Higher Level Teaching Assistant - This is the highest qualification in the UK for TAs.
Due to the wide range of duties and tasks undertaken by Teaching Assistants, it’s always worth reading job advertisements for specific Teaching Assistant roles. The needs of the school will often time be as unique and individual as the needs of students. It’s important that you research individual needs and tasks laid out in TA roles. You can search for all manner of Teaching Assistant jobs across the UK and abroad on Eteach today:
It pays to be empathic as a teaching assistant, your students’ successes will be incredibly rewarding. Your positivity and patience will help young minds form and understand new and difficult concepts. Like any professionals working with children, you will need to undergo a criminal record check with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The ability to work in a team will be highly beneficial as you’ll be working closely not only with teachers but also non-teaching professionals such as educational psychologists, social workers, speech and language therapists and potentially many more.
What qualifications do I need to be a Teaching Assistant?
You may not need a degree to become a TA and some schools will even offer training on the job but it is a good idea to gain some experience and qualifications if you can. Qualifications can be gained in colleges, via distance learning such as the Open University, on the job training and through Awareness Courses.
Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland include:
- NCFE Initial Training for Classroom Assistants, Stages 1 and 2
- City and Guilds award for Teaching Assistants (7327) (also Certificate and Advanced Certificate in Learning Support (7321))
- NVQ Teaching Assistants Level 2 and 3
- CACHE Level 2 and 3 Certificates in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
- BTEC Level 2 and 3 Certificates for Teaching Assistants
- Open University Specialist Teacher Assistant Certificate
- CACHE Specialist Teacher Assistant (STA) Award
- Foundation Degree (usually in Education Studies, but shaped to meet the needs of the teaching assistant)
- HLTA (Higher Level Teaching Assistant) status
Qualifications in Scotland vary slightly as the term "teaching assistant" is not formally used. Staff who work alongside teachers to support the learning of children are referred to as classroom assistants or pupil support workers. In addition to the above list of qualifications classroom assistants in Scotland may also earn:
- City and Guilds award for Classroom Assistants in Scotland (7328)
- Professional Development Award in Early Years Care and Education, for classroom assistants in Scotland
In addition, there is no HLTA status in Scotland and Classroom Assistants do not cover classes.
Find out more about teaching assistant roles at the UCAS Job Profile: Teaching Assistant
If you’re thinking about undertaking a Teaching Assistant course but you aren’t sure where to start, consider the following when you go about your research:
Do you want to get a good understanding of what’s involved in a career as a Teaching Assistant? A Level 2 Award or Certificate will give you a good understanding of a career as a Teaching Assistant and the Certificate course will gain you work experience.
Do you have the time to travel to and attend Teaching Assistant courses? If not, then perhaps you should consider a Level 2 or Level 3 Award. Neither of these Awards require work placement but both will give you a good understanding of a career as a Teaching Assistant.
Do already work in a school but want to advance your career? Consider a Level 2 or 3 Certificate or perhaps a Level 3 Diploma. Work placement is required for all three and will provide you with excellent knowledge of Teaching Assistant essentials. If you choose to take on the additional units available in Level 3 you can gain a Diploma.
Do you work as a Teaching Assistant already but want to further your career? You have the option to specialise in your role or advance your position. To specialise, you could do a SEN Teaching Assistant course. This course will give you the tools you need to embark on a career with students’ who have special needs or even within a Special Educational Needs school or college. Alternatively, you could speak to your employer about becoming a Higher Level Teaching Assistant or HLTA.
The above are not the only course or routes into becoming a TA but we hope they give you a good idea of potential avenues into this rewarding career.
Why are teaching assistants important?
As with any educational specialist, a Teaching Assistant will have a heightened awareness of their students’ needs. Unlike most educational specialists, a Teaching Assistant has the advantage of their roles’ close proximity to the students’ day to day tasks which provides greater opportunity for students to discuss matters most important to them. This means TAs can be the students’ first port of call when faced with complex problems whether those are educational, social or personal.
This means that in many cases Teaching Assistants are the grown-ups that students turn to first. Teaching Assistants bridge the gaps between teachers and parents and students and this communication and understanding is invaluable to all involved. Apart from the obvious educational benefits of the support provided by Teaching Assistants, the social and emotional support that Teaching Assistants have to offer is more important than we can ever truly measure.
Want to find out more?
Why not sign up to Eteach today for free? You can build your online profile and carry out further research on all the latest TA jobs on Eteach.com. When you find the ideal role you’ll be in a great place to apply to your perfect job.
About the author
As an Open University graduate with TEFL certification, Jennifer has spent a good deal of her professional life as somewhat of a digital nomad. After years of studying and then teaching across five different countries, Jennifer has settled in the UK and when she isn’t teaching, she’s writing or working on all things content, from Accessibility to UX. Jennifer’s passions are the concepts of accessible education and universal design where she can contribute to a world, both physically and digitally, more easily accessed by all.