Teaching Assistants usually work in a classroom alongside children from all backgrounds – some with Special Educational Needs (SEN) – who need extra support with their educational and social development, either one-on-one or in small groups. Occasionally, they might be asked to work with children outside the classroom e.g. taking a disruptive child out of the classroom setting, to work separately, where there are fewer unhelpful distractions. Teaching Assistants also help Teachers with practical tasks, such as handing out equipment, tidying up at the end of the day and supervising school trips or activities.
It is important to note that Teaching Assistants are not qualified teachers, so are guided by teachers on how they like to run the class. That said, the role of the Teaching Assistant is indispensable for running an effective classroom learning environment. With many schools understaffed and pupil numbers on the rise, teachers rely heavily on help from Teaching Assistants and other support staff to keep things running efficiently. It is also a huge relief for Teachers to know that there is extra support available for any children who need it.
There are opportunities available to work with children of all ages and the age bracket you choose is completely up to you. Some people prefer the golden age of primary school, while others enjoy seeing the difference they can make in supporting a teenager’s transition to adulthood during secondary school. The common theme is the desire to help nurture and develop our future generations.
What skills do I need?
The right person will:
- Have excellent literacy, numeracy and communication skills.
- Be confident working alongside children within a classroom setting.
- Be passionate about supporting the youth of today.
- Be able to demonstrate patience and understanding, as you will work with children who may not always grasp things first time.
- Be comfortable working flexibly, as every child is different, with some learning techniques being more suitable for some than others.
- Know how to strike the right balance between kindness and discipline.
What will I love about the job?
- Working with children will give you a fresh perspective on life as they’re full of imagination, interesting ideas and boundless energy.
- You’ll be able to influence and inspire future generations on a daily basis, which puts you in a privileged position.
- There are part-time and full-time roles available so you can choose what best suits you.
- You’ll be able to take full advantage of school holidays, with an estimated 10 weeks off a year!
- The overwhelming feeling of satisfaction that comes from seeing a child improve their learning and become happier as a result.
What are the challenges of the job?
- Some children display challenging behaviour, which can be daunting if you are unprepared for it. This isn’t usually a problem if you know how to handle it and you will receive training on how to deal with this sort of behaviour so it shouldn’t stop you entering the role. There is also a big difference between children of different ages.
- Prioritising. You might have several children in your class who all need extra help. But you will quickly learn how to manage your time effectively and recognise when working in a small group is most beneficial.
How much will I earn?
Starting salaries for newly qualified Teaching Assistants typically start at approximately £12,000 with the potential to rise to £20,000 plus.
Are there opportunities to progress?
If you decide you want to develop your role as a Teaching Assistant, there are opportunities to progress into further roles, including:
- Higher Level Teacher Assistant
- Head of Department
How do I get started?
Speak to local schools – you may not need a qualification
There isn’t a set path to becoming a Teaching Assistant. Different schools have different entry requirements, so it’s best to start by speaking to one or two local schools in your area who will give you guidelines as to the sort of people they are looking to employ.