How to Become a Higher Level Teaching Assistant

Become a Higher Level Teaching Assistant

If you work as a teaching assistant, you can increase your responsibilities, improve your career prospects and earn a higher salary by becoming a higher-level teaching assistant. More and more schools are now employing higher-level teaching assistants because they recognise there’s an abundance of skills and experience that can be utilised to help children learn. In the following information, you’ll discover what you would actually be doing on a daily basis as a higher-level teaching assistant, the key skills you need to possess to become a higher-level teaching assistant and how much you could earn in this role. You’ll also find out what you need to do to become a higher-level teaching assistant and how your career could progress even further once you’ve moved up the teaching assistant ladder.

What is a higher-level teaching assistant?

Higher-level teaching assistants are commonly known as HLTAs. They work with teachers in school classes to provide support teaching to help pupils. As an HLTA, you can work in either a primary school or a secondary school. AN HLTA does everything a regular teaching assistant does but he or she has an increased level of responsibility. To work as an HLTA, you must already work as a standard teaching assistant. Typical roles of a standard teaching assistant include:

  • Delivering learning activities to pupils in small groups or on a one-to-one basis.
  • Supporting pupils in their emotional and social development.
  • Monitoring pupils’ learning progress.
  • Carrying out administrative tasks.
  • Assisting with extracurricular activities.

What do higher-level teaching assistants actually do?

As an HLTA with an increased level of responsibility, you would teach classes by yourself, cover teacher absences and assist teachers with lesson planning and marking. You would prepare and deliver learning activities to individual pupils, small groups of pupils or entire classes. You would also record, assess and report the progress of those pupils. In addition, many HLTAs manage other members of staff that work with pupils, liaise with parents or guardians regarding sensitive issues for specific pupils, and develop curriculum areas within the school.

Higher-level Teaching Assistant Job Description

As well as providing classes to pupils and supporting the school in the ways mentioned above, other typical responsibilities of an HLTA include reinforcing pupils’ self-esteem by encouraging them to achieve and develop, attending meetings, and supporting teachers to devise complementary learning activities. You might also help children with special needs to be accepted and included in classes. Other typical requirements of an HLTA include:

  • Having specific skills to utilise in classes, such as drama, craft or gardening.
  • Assisting with out-of-school activities, such as school performances, day trips and open days.
  • Contributing to the behaviour management of pupils.
  • Providing general care and welfare for the pupils.
  • Recording pupil absences.
  • Collating pupil reports.
  • Managing and inputting pupil data.
  • Administering and invigilating exams.
  • Processing exam results.
  • Being responsible for health and safety aspects.

Key Skills of a Higher-level Teaching Assistant

If you want to progress from a standard teaching assistant role to an HLTA position, you’ll need to demonstrate you meet the thirty-three professional standards associated with being an HLTA. These standards have been set by a group of educational experts and unions in the UK. The standards help to clarify teaching assistant roles and bring them into line with other standards that are required for teachers and head teachers. The key skills of professional standards you must meet include the following.

Professional Practices and Values

You must be committed to helping pupils fulfil their potentials, establishing constructive and supportive relationships with pupils, and communicating sensitively and effectively with pupils, parents, teachers and colleagues. You will also have a professional regard for your school’s ethos, practices and policies. In addition, you must demonstrate positive attitudes and behaviours in order to develop and sustain good relationships with the community of the school.

Professional Knowledge

You need to have sufficient knowledge of areas of expertise in order to support pupils’ learning and development. You also need to understand the content, objectives and intended outcomes for the learning activities you’re involved with. Additionally, you need to know how to use Information and Communications Technology to support your professional activities.


You must have the professional skills to assist in the preparation and planning of learning activities. This involves using structured activities to motivate and interest pupils so they can develop their learning.

Monitoring and Assessing

You’ll need the skills to monitor pupils’ responses to learning activities and modify your approaches to those activities accordingly. You must utilise a number of assessment techniques in order to analyse and record pupils’ progress.

Teaching and Learning Activities

By using effective strategies for teaching and learning activities, you will promote positive behaviour and advance the learning of pupils on a one-to-one basis, in small groups and with entire classes.

Working with Others

HLTAs are expected to recognise and respect members of staff and parents by effectively liaising with them. You must be able to work collaboratively with classroom teachers and colleagues. Furthermore, you need to be able to communicate your knowledge about pupils to other members of staff and education and social care professionals.

Useful Work Experience

Before you can become an HLTA, you must already be employed as a standard teaching assistant. To become a teaching assistant, you may need to hold a specific qualification or have a good standard education, such as GCSE grades A to C or one to three. Alternatively, you could enrol with a teaching assistant apprenticeship. It’s also helpful to have experience of working with children before you embark on a teaching assistant career, such as working at a nursery or a youth centre.

Average Salaries for Higher-level Teaching Assistants

Due to having additional responsibilities, an HLTA will earn slightly more than a regular teaching assistant. However, the pay rates for HLTAs can vary a great deal. You can expect to earn anything between £17,000 and £24,000 per year. If you have additional specialisms, you could earn even more though. In addition, your salary can depend on the number of weeks you work each year. Some salaries for HLTA positions are offered as all-year-round salaries while others are paid on a pro-rata basis. The latter means you would only receive a salary during term time.

Qualifications for Higher-level Teaching Assistants

To progress from a regular teaching assistant position to an HLTA role, you not only need to be already working as a teaching assistant, you also need to have the support of your school and head teacher. It is the responsibility of head teachers to approach training providers in order to organise your assessment for an HLTA position.

If you wish to become an HLTA, you must hold a nationally-recognised qualification in English and maths at level two or above, such as a GCSE or a functional skills qualification. You must also have ICT skills and demonstrate you meet the thirty-three HLTA professional standards. In addition, you will be trained in relevant learning strategies like numeracy and have specialist skills in a specific curriculum area like sign language. If you have the required qualifications, skills and experience, you can be assessed to potentially become an HLTA.

The assessment process involves spending three days of preparation work. This could be integrated into your training or carried out separately. During the preparation period, you’ll gain in-depth knowledge of the required standards. The assessment itself involves an official assessor coming to your school. The assessor will work for an organisation that is approved by the Training
and Development Agency for Schools. You’ll have to provide evidence from your daily work to show you meet the required standards. The assessor will then spend half a day assessing you as you work. The assessor will also talk to you and at least one teacher before he or she comes to a decision regarding your suitability for the HLTA role.

Furthermore, you can earn a level four certificate to become an HLTA. Although it is not a requirement for achieving HLTA status, you would acquire a nationally-recognised qualification. This could allow you to earn a better salary.

Career Progression

Some HLTAs further their careers by becoming qualified teachers. By having teaching experience under your belt, you will be in a good position to be accepted onto a relevant foundation degree at a college or university. By becoming a qualified primary school or secondary school teacher, you can utilise more teaching skills and receive a higher salary.

In Conclusion

If you’re already working as a teaching assistant, you can progress in your career by becoming an HLTA. With the support of your school and head teacher, you can go through the assessment process to be accepted as an HLTA. You will then have more responsibilities in your job role. You will also be able to earn a higher salary. If you feel you’re ready to take a step up in your teaching assistant profession, speak to your head teacher to discuss your intentions.

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article, as always if you have any questions about this article or any online courses featured on The Course Mix just let us know and leave a comment below.

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