How to Become a Teaching Assistant

How to Become a Teaching Assistant

Whilst there are many jobs available out there that provide both challenge and reward in equal measure; there are few that can match up with a career working with children. With the teaching profession being one of the oldest going, it is no surprise that so many people choose to get into teaching. Whether you are fresh from education, or fancy a career change, supporting young people in the classroom can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

With so many individuals now looking to enter into the teaching sector at a later stage in their lives, there seems to be a much higher interest in teaching assistant roles than in previous years, with statistics showing that the number of full time teaching assistants has more than trebled since 2000! As a teaching assistant you are able to reap many of the benefits a fully qualified teacher would, however it can be much more flexible and makes a perfect option for those who have other commitments.

So if you have a passion for working with children and you find yourself struggling with where to begin, you have come to the right place. Here is everything you need to know about how to get a job as a teaching assistant and how you can get your foot in the door if you have no qualifications or experience!

 

What is a Teaching Assistant?

Over the years Teaching Assistants (TA) have become more and more prominent in the classroom. The main role of a TA is to support the teacher, however it is not as straight forward as it first sounds; this could involve anything from covering a class, to teaching small groups or individuals with specific needs.

A TA could be expected to have a great deal of involvement in the school day, and depending on your level at that time could see you taking on much more of a key role in the teaching of your class. Whilst no school or classroom is the same, it is important to have a good understanding of the role and what might be expected of you before jumping into the deep end.

 

What Will You Be Doing As a Teaching Assistant?

Before we dive into the different routes you could take for becoming a Teaching Assistant, let’s first look at the role itself. It may not seem like it at first, but a TA is a crucial part of any classroom, not only is it extra support for the teacher to make the classes run more smoothly, but as a TA you will also be providing a huge level of support to the children in your care.

Whilst more qualified teaching assistants may specialise in a specific area such as numeracy, literacy or even special educational needs (SEN), all TA’s will be expected to bring the same level of passion and specific skills to the role, regardless of their experience.

So what exactly can you expect to be doing as a teaching assistant? As we have said, no school is the same, and tasks are likely to vary from one classroom to another depending on ability and age group. However that being said, here is a list of the typical tasks you can expect to be doing as a teaching assistant:

  • Delivery of learning material; this could be to an individual or a small group, or even a full classroom.
  • Supporting pupils both socially and emotionally to encourage healthy development.
  • Supporting the teacher in dealing with challenging behaviour
  • Supporting the teacher with the smooth running of the class
  • Reading and writing activities
  • Encouraging positive behaviour in the children
  • Helping children stay on track during class
  • Ensuring children are doing the work set for them, and are able to follow the material
  • Looking after children who have had accidents, hurt themselves or are upset.
  • Providing personal care if a child is in need (e.g. moving and handling)
  • Supporting other staff members
  • Understand and offer a safe space for children
  • Monitoring student’s progress

 

What Skills Do You Need To Be a Teaching Assistant?

Much like any job that involves working with vulnerable groups, there is a certain set of skills and character traits that employers will want to see. Generally speaking there are no formal qualifications necessary to become a first level teaching assistant, with minimum requirements being GCSE’s in numeracy and literacy or the equivalent. That being said, your personality and character traits will be explored at interview to ensure you are right for the job.

So, what skills will be expected of you as a teaching assistant? Here is a list of what employers will be looking out for at an interview:

  • Passion – A genuine passion for learning, teaching and children is of course a must!
  • Patience
  • Ability – This is where qualifications can get you ahead of the game!
  • Experience – Whilst experience isn’t always necessary it is always great to demonstrate where possible.
  • Strong regard for pupil safety and well being
  • Flexible approach
  • Professional
  • Friendly
  • Approachable
  • Understanding
  • Respectful of diversity
  • Reading, writing and numeracy skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Confidence
  • Willing to adapt to change
  • Creative
  • Willingness to get involved

 

This is just a handful of the things you may be questioned on, ultimately an employer will want to see that you have a genuine passion for this kind of role, and an enthusiasm to deliver a great learning experience to children. It is very common that individuals go into roles like these underprepared and find the classroom overwhelming, so an employer will want to see that you have done your homework and are prepared for the challenges that will come.

 

Retraining As a Teaching Assistant

Whilst there are plenty of individuals who opt for a career as a TA immediately after finishing school, college or University, there are actually many more who choose the career later on in life. We have a huge number of individuals who join onto our teaching assistant courses that have families of their own and are looking to get into teaching in a way that suits their lifestyle.

With the role of teaching assistant being such a flexible one, it allows many people to begin learning and gaining relevant job experience without it getting in the way of childcare and family life. This coupled with our range of online courses means that those with other responsibilities and time commitments needn’t worry about fitting everything in.

 

What Can You Expect As a Teaching Assistant?

So, you now have an idea of what will be expected of you as a great teaching assistant, but what can you expect from the role? As we have established, the position of a TA is both rewarding yet challenging, and no two days are likely to be the same. So what can you expect as a teaching assistant? Here are some of the key things to think about:

DBS

First and foremost, anybody wanting to begin a career working with children will be expected to complete a Disclosure Barring Service form (DBS). This is in place across England and Wales to help employers find the most suitable and appropriate staff members for the job in question.

While DBS checks aren’t carried out for every role and really only relate to positions where you are working closely with vulnerable individuals, they are almost always carried out for jobs working with children. A DBS checks your history to ensure you have no serious criminal record and in this case, are safe to work with children. So it is important to expect a DBS check to be carried out before you begin working as a TA. It is also important to note that these checks aren’t free, and whilst your employer may pay the fee themselves (and often do), on some occasions you might be asked to pay yourself and this usually costs around £60-70.

An employer will only carry out a DBS once a job offer has been made, this offer will then be pending until your DBS check comes back clear. An employer can remove any job offer if the DBS reveals anything untoward.

Salary

Teaching assistant wages can differ from one school to the next, and will usually vary depending on your level. If you are brand new to the role with no prior qualifications you will likely start off on an entry level wage which for a full time TA is usually around £15,000.

However, for those who are level 2 or 3 teaching assistants, you can expect a salary that ranges between £15-21,000 per annum. The highest level of teaching assistant can earn anywhere between around £21-25,000 although these figures vary and depend on the school, your role and the educational setting.

Unlike many jobs out there, teaching assistant roles do not have a national pay scale, meaning that most schools choose their wage based on the local authority guidelines. This can make it quite tricky to figure out exactly what you are likely to be paid, and can be even less straight forward if you’re working for an independent school, academy or free school as they do not have to follow those Local Authority guidelines.

Working Hours

One of the most beneficial aspects of becoming a teaching assistant is the flexibility of the role, with working hours generally being during the average school day it still allows for home life to continue relatively uninterrupted. However that being said, it is important to be accommodating and flexible in your role, meaning that you may be asked to take on extra duties such as after school club, breakfast club or even school trips outside of normal hours.

Whilst it may not be mandatory for you to do these extra hours, it would of course be in your best professional interest to be accommodating and eager to go the extra mile. Along with clubs and trips, there may be an expectation that you will attend parent’s evenings, summer activities and training days.

Depending on your contract of employment you may be contracted to do certain extra hours, however contracts can vary greatly in this profession and could be part-time, full time or even through an agency meaning it isn’t a permanent job (unless of course the school take you on themselves). The most likely contract you will get is a fixed term one, meaning it will be annually reviewed, or in the cases where you are hired to work one to one with a specific individual, it will be reviewed when that student leaves or circumstances change.

Qualifications

Perhaps one of the most important things to know when it comes to a profession as a teaching assistant is relating to qualifications. Whilst it is vital to have qualified teacher status QTS to be a teacher, it is not needed as a TA. In fact, many schools will consider employing an individual with no relevant experience or qualifications as long as they are A) willing to learn on the job and B) the right fit for the role.

However, that being said it is important to consider how in demand teaching assistant roles are, not just due to the fact that the role is an extremely enjoyable one, but also because it is an important stepping stone for many on their journey to becoming a fully qualified teacher. It is due to this that having those relevant qualifications or experience can make all the difference during your interview and application process, as most schools will be looking for the full package!

At Open Learning College, we offer a handful of great teaching assistant courses that will provide you with all the knowledge and information necessary to get you on your way to becoming a TA. The courses are completed online and at the end you will come away with a recognised qualification to become a successful teaching assistant – it is as simple as that!

Course on Offer

At OLC, we offer a choice of four teaching assistant courses, all of which are incredibly useful in getting you the dream job!

CACHE Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools and Colleges

  • Develop the skills and knowledge necessary for working in a school setting.
  • Gives you the skills needed to fulfil a range of relevant roles and tasks.
  • Perfect for those at the beginning of their career.
  • Online course that runs for 12 months.

CACHE Level 3 Award in Support Teaching and Learning

  • Specifically tailored to provide the necessary skills to begin working in schools. From legislation through to developmental techniques, this is a great all you need to know course!
  • Awarded by the most recognised awarding body for the care and education sectors.
  • Online course that runs for 12 months

Teaching Assistant Level 3

  • This is a great option for those who want to know the basics of what it is to be a teaching assistant. You will learn about what knowledge and skills are required to support learning in schools and how best to carry out your job.
  • Online course that runs for 12 months

CACHE level 4 Certificate for the Advanced Practitioner in Schools and Colleges

  • This is our most popular course taken up by those who already have experience working with children and want to enhance on their skills and knowledge.
  • Great for those who are aiming to take on more senior roles later down the line.
  • Online course that runs for 12 months

 

So, Why Become a Teaching Assistant?

There are so many reasons why you should consider becoming a teaching assistant from job satisfaction through to excellent career prospects, there’s no other job out there that can bring such a sense of pride and satisfaction.

If you have a genuine passion for working with children, a drive to learn and teach, and the willingness to progress and adapt then you have all the ingredients necessary to make an amazing teaching assistant. In your role you will be able to support young people to achieve their goals, and guide them through such a vital time in their lives, which can be one of the most rewarding things in any job.

We encourage those who have worked in other jobs or sectors and who are looking for a change, to consider our TA courses. The nature of each course lends itself to a busy lifestyle, and is perfect to do alongside work or family life. The end result could be an opportunity for you to fulfil your dreams of becoming a teaching assistant, whether that is your end goal or you wish to progress up the ladder – it can be a perfect starting point!

So, why become a teaching assistant? To provide guidance, support, and ultimately help shape young lives at a time when it matters the most.

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