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Teaching

All You Need to Know About a Teaching Assistant

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Nauman Farooq

May 14, 2024

Read time : 11 mins

Table of contents

What is a Teaching Assistant?

As the name suggests, a teaching assistant provides assistance to teachers. A teaching assistant works closely with a teacher in planning lessons, setting up classrooms for lessons, and assisting students with their learning. Being a teaching assistant is a challenging but rewarding role. This role is ideal for individuals with a passion for helping children.

The Roles and Responsibilities of Teaching Assistants

Teaching assistants play diversified roles, and their responsibilities depend on the schools they are working at. The roles and responsibilities of a teaching assistant may include:

  • Preparing the classroom before lessons
  • Helping teachers manage the class
  • Assisting teachers in planning activities for learning
  • Carrying out administrative tasks
  • Taking care of learning equipment before or after lessons
  • Helping students in listening and reading
  • Providing help to students requiring additional support
  • Monitoring group activities
  • Helping with co curricular activities

Some teaching assistants work directly with students, while others work in small groups to support students. Teaching assistants. Many schools prefer hiring teaching assistants with specific areas of expertise, such as music, creative arts, special educational needs (SEN), etc.

When a teacher is absent due to illness or undergoing training, classes are typically supervised by knowledgeable and highly skilled teaching assistants. Higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs) can also occasionally lead a lesson in the presence of a qualified teacher,

Day-to-Day Tasks

A teaching assistant helps in:

  • preparing lesson materials
  • setting up classrooms for learning
  • ensuring students have understood lessons
  • overviewing the overall progress of the students
  • looking after children
  • leading classes in the presence of a teacher

Qualities & Skills Required to Be a Teaching Assistant

If you want to become a teacher assistant, you must have:

  • Ability to develop good relationships with children.
  • Good communication skills
  • Active listening skills
  • Patience and skills to stay calm in every situation
  • Flexibility to adapt to working on different activities
  • Polite behaviour
  • Skills to provide the best conditions for learning
  • Ability to use a computer, laptop, or tablet.

The above mentioned skills are not technical skills to become a teaching assistant. However, anybody wishing to become a teaching assistant must possess these qualities and skills to carry out day-to-day tasks effectively.

How to Become a Teaching Assistant

Becoming a teaching assistant does not require any specific qualifications. However, acquiring the right teaching qualifications will add value to your resume and position you as a stronger applicant. They will also provide the fundamental knowledge and skills to help you in the work.

how to become a teaching assistant

Following are the ways to become a teaching assistant:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
    volunteering
  • applying directly
 

Qualifications 

Entry requirements

A College Course

–  Level 2 or 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools

– Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education

– T Level in Education and Early Years

– 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course

– 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course

– 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths for a T level

An Apprenticeship

– Teaching Assistant Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship

– 5 GCSEs at Grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths

Volunteering

– One possible way to gain experience is volunteering at a nearby school or community organisation. Sometimes, volunteering results in paid employment or the opportunity to achieve a certification.

– No entry requirements

Applying Directly

Schools, local authorities, and academy trusts all accept direct applications for jobs. 

– You will have an advantage if you have training in youth work, playwork, childcare, or nurseries.

– The entry requirements for each school vary but generally speaking you’ll need GCSEs in math and English from grades 9 to 4 (A* to C). 

– You’ll also need to demonstrate your ability to collaborate effectively with parents, teachers and kids. 

What Qualifications Do You Need for a Teaching Assistant in the UK?

GCSEs (or equivalent)
Typically, schools will require candidates to have a minimum of Grade C/4 or above in English and Mathematics, although some may also require qualifications in other subjects.

Level 2 or Level 3 Teaching Assistant Qualification
Many schools prefer candidates to have completed a relevant qualification such as a Level 2 or Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools. These qualifications provide training and knowledge in areas such as child development, safeguarding, and supporting learning activities.

Experience
While not always essential, having relevant experience working with children or in an educational setting can strengthen your application. This could include volunteering, placements, or previous employment in schools or childcare settings.

Career Path and Progression

Once you begin working as a teaching assistant, it’s crucial to keep improving your skills. For that, you must take advanced qualifications, which enhance your knowledge and skills at work and help your career grow.

Advanced Qualifications

  • Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools (RQF)
  • Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools (RQF)
  • Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools (RQF)

Continued Learning
You must continue learning if you want to progress in your career. Completing new courses will help you learn the latest teaching practices and methodologies. When choosing a new course for enhanced learning, you should consider courses in specialised areas, such as special needs education.

Workshops and Seminars
You must also participate in seminars and workshops related to education and teaching. These seminars are often led by highly recognised and experienced professional who share their experiences. You get an opportunity to learn about the latest trends and research in the field. Apart from learning, you also interact with them and develop good public relations.

What is the Difference Between a Teacher and a Teaching Assistant?

Teachers and teaching assistants play important roles in the education system but have distinct responsibilities and qualifications. Here are the key differences between the two roles:

 

Teacher

Teaching Assistant

Responsibilities

  • Planning and delivering lessons
  • Assessing student progress
  • Creating a positive learning environment
  • Managing the overall classroom dynamics. 
  • Instructing students in specific subjects or areas of study.
  • Supporting teachers in the classroom 
  • Providing additional assistance to students
  • Helping with administrative tasks and preparing materials
  • Offering one-on-one or small-group support. 
  • Assist with behaviour management and classroom organisation.

Qualifications

  • Typically a bachelor’s degree in education or a related subject.
  • Teacher training programs such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
  • Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • Holding degrees is not a requirement.
  • Qualifications such as a Level 2 or Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools.

Scope of Work

Teachers have primary responsibility for:

  • planning and delivering lessons,
  • assessing student progress,
  • managing the classroom
  • ensuring that curriculum objectives are met, 
  • and making decisions related to teaching methods.

Teaching assistants have primary responsibility for:

  • working under the guidance and direction of teachers,
  • providing support in various aspects of classroom activities and student learning, 
  • providing additional explanations,
  • helping students with assignments,
  • and reinforcing learning concepts introduced by the teacher.

How Much Does a Teaching Assistant Earn

The salaries of teaching assistants in the UK depend on the levels, duties, roles, and where you work. Salaries for different levels are as follows:

  • The Level 1 Teaching Assistant earns around £18,300 per year.
  • The Level 2 Teaching Assistant earns around £18,880 to £19,000 per year.
  • The Level 3 Teaching Assistant earns around £19,260 to £25,000.

These salaries are for full-time, permanent Teaching Assistants. If TAs are working part-time, term-time only, or casual contracts, their salaries can be a lot less.

A teaching assistant’s salary in the UK varies widely, as there’s no national pay scale. Most schools adhere to local government pay scale for support staff, but this differs based on school type. Local authority guidelines don’t bind Independent institutions.

Educational recruitment agencies might offer higher rates, especially for graduates, but job security isn’t guaranteed.

Teaching Assistant Courses

Here are some very popular qualifications for becoming a teaching assistant:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools (RQF)
  • Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools (RQF)
  • Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools (RQF)
  • Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools (RQF)
  • Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools (RQF)
  • Level 4 Certificate in Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) (RQF)

FAQs

Can I be a teaching assistant with no experience?

Yes, you can be a teaching assistant without any experience. Many faculties and institutions hire candidates who are open to learning and show dedication. Some institutions also offer on-the-job training to fresh candidates so they can learn while working. You can also work as a volunteer to get some experience.

How long does it take to become a teaching assistant?

Typically, you can become a teaching assistant by achieving relevant qualifications, which can take several months to a year. After that, it depends on the availability of jobs in your area. Getting experience through part-time work or volunteering can improve your chances of finding employment more quickly.

What is another name for a teaching assistant?

There are several other names for a teaching assistant such as teacher’s aide (TA), education assistant (EA), or team teacher (TT).

What is a SEN teaching assistant?

A SEN (Special Educational Needs) teaching assistant is a professional who provides support to students with special educational needs or disabilities in the classroom. Their role involves assisting these students with their learning, providing additional support and guidance as needed, and helping them to access the curriculum.