If you want a career working alongside children and supporting teachers in the classroom, becoming a teaching assistant may be the role for you. You’ll help provide one-on-one support to children who require it, motivate and encourage pupils, supervise trips and special activities, and much more.
Thinking of becoming a teaching assistant? Read on for guidance about what it involves, what responsibilities you’ll have, and the required skills and qualities.
In this article:
® What is a Teaching Assistant?
® What are the Responsibilities of a Teaching Assistant?
® Required Skills and Qualities
® Salary of a Teaching Assistant
® What to Expect as a Teaching Assistant
What is a Teaching Assistant?
A teaching assistant (TA) is someone who works in the classroom, either in a nursery or school, to support the teacher and students in their learning.
TAs are one of the most flexible roles in education, encompassing a broad range of tasks. However, commonly they work with children with special educational needs (sometimes on a 1:1 basis) or help small groups of children that require additional support in a particular subject, e.g., numeracy or literacy.
First created for primary education, TAs are now found in all educational settings, including nurseries, primary and secondary schools, and even colleges and other education centres.
What are the Responsibilities of a Teaching Assistant?
Your responsibilities as a teaching assistant will depend on your experience, skills, and job requirements. TAs are commonly involved in:
▪ Assisting teachers in setting up and tidying up lesson activities.
▪ Cleaning up after lessons and assisting with outings or sports events.
▪ Supporting the smooth operation of the class and assisting in managing class behaviour.
▪ Supervising reading sessions with children and tracking their progress.
▪ Conducting reading and writing activities for the entire class, in smaller groups, or one-on-one.
▪ Delivering tailored learning activities in small groups or one-to-one settings.
▪ Guiding and monitoring student progress.
▪ Ensuring pupils are engaged and stay on task during lessons or activities.
▪ Supporting social and emotional development and raising concerns according to school policy.
▪ Providing support outside of class, such as exam invigilation, covering absences, and participating in extracurricular activities.
▪ Supervising children during break time, lunchtime and covering lunch/break duties.
▪ Assisting teachers with lesson planning and record keeping.
▪ Providing administrative support such as preparing resources.
▪ Coordinating teaching support (for higher-level TAs).
▪ Participating in training and carrying out other administrative tasks.
Required Skills and Qualities
Becoming a teaching assistant doesn’t require any specialist qualification except to become an advanced teaching assistant.
Most schools expect basic qualifications, usually a GCSE or equivalent, in maths and English in grades nine to four (A* to C) to ensure you’ve got a solid grounding in the subjects. Experience working with children is also beneficial.
Despite no formal requirements, some schools will ask for a specific TA qualification. Several qualifications exist for becoming a teaching assistant. These include:
▪ Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools
▪ Level 3 Teaching Assistant Diploma
▪ Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
▪ Level 2 Teaching Assistant Certificate
▪ Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
▪ Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools
In addition to these qualifications, you can also become a TA via a Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship. You’ll spend at least 18 months training, with 20% of the time in the classroom and 80% on-the-job training. To apply, you’ll usually require at least five GCSEs graded nine to four (A* to C), including English and Maths. Search for available teaching assistant apprenticeships at Find an Apprenticeship.
Last, although not essential, you can undertake an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, like early years, teaching, or education, to become a TA. Most degrees take three to four years to complete and can include an integrated foundation year or professional placements.
Teaching assistants are more than just their qualifications. Indeed, their personal qualities are often more important for the children’s well-being and development.
Essential skills for a teaching assistant include:
▪ Knowledge of child learning and development
▪ Conflict resolution
▪ Skill in observation and assessment
▪ Behavioural management for students
▪ Proficiency in supporting children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
▪ Problem-solving aptitude
▪ Clear communication skills
▪ Professional demeanour
▪ Empathetic nature
▪ Optimistic attitude
▪ Team player
Salary of a Teaching Assistant
According to the National Careers Service, the average annual salary for a teaching assistant is between £14,000 and £21,000. Typically, TAs work 30 to 40 hours a week during term time (and occasionally work evenings). Indeed, most TAs find themselves on a term-time-only contract, which means you won’t earn the total yearly amount.
Officially, the starting annual salary for a Level 1 teaching assistant is £17,000; for a qualified Level 2 teaching assistant it rises to between £18,000 and £20,000, and a Level 3 teaching assistant can earn up to £25,000, especially if they have additional responsibilities and specialisms.
Note: Wages are based on National standards and can differ for Inner and Outer London.
What to Expect as a Teaching Assistant
▪ You’ll play a crucial role in guiding students, particularly those with learning or behavioural challenges, helping them navigate their educational journey.
▪ Every day promises new challenges and tasks, ensuring a dynamic work environment.
▪ Flexibility is key; occasionally, you are called upon to provide immediate support.
▪ Some students may require additional personal care, and your support will be invaluable to them.
▪ Depending on a student’s needs, you might occasionally assist in ensuring students are safely moved or lifted.
▪ Becoming a teaching assistant has its challenges, but witnessing a student’s progress and growth is immensely rewarding.
▪ While the classroom is the primary setting, the scope of your role extends beyond it.
▪ Oversee lunch periods, ensuring a fun and safe environment for all.
▪ Participate in enriching outdoor activities and school trips, contributing to memorable learning experiences for the students.
All individuals working with children must submit a criminal record check via the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
For more information about working in the education sector, see our other articles and guides.