How to become a teaching assistant

How to Become a Teaching Assistant in the UK

To become a teaching assistant, you need to acquire the right skills, qualifications, and gain relevant experience. Having a strong foundation in these areas will not only make you a strong candidate for a teaching assistant job, but will also enhance your ability to make a meaningful impact in the lives of students.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of becoming a teaching assistant in the UK. We’ll cover the essential qualifications and skills, the various routes to gaining relevant experience, and how to stand out in the job market.

Understanding the Role of a Teaching Assistant

Before you pursue a career as a teaching assistant, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the role and its responsibilities.

Key Responsibilities

Teaching assistants support teachers and students in various ways to create a positive learning environment. Some of their tasks include:

  • Helping with classroom management and maintaining discipline
  • Assisting students with their work, especially those with learning difficulties or disabilities
  • Preparing learning materials and setting up equipment for lessons
  • Supporting teachers in planning and evaluating activities
  • Monitoring and assessing students’ progress

Working Environment

A teaching assistant’s working environment varies depending on the school and age group they are working with. In general, you can expect:

  • Classroom-based work with the students and teacher
  • One-to-one support sessions or small group activities
  • Occasionally assisting during outdoor activities or off-site visits
  • A standard work week of around 30 to 37 hours, with potential extracurricular duties

Types of Schools

Teaching assistants can work in different types of schools, each with unique characteristics and requirements:

Type of SchoolDescription
Mainstream SchoolsThese include primary, secondary, and academy schools, where you assist a diverse group of students with varying needs.
Special Educational Needs (SEN) SchoolsThese schools cater specifically to students with learning difficulties and disabilities, and you may need additional training to work effectively in this setting.
Independent SchoolsPrivate schools often have smaller class sizes, and you might have more opportunities to work closely with individual students and offer personalised support.

Understanding the role will help you in your journey to becoming a teaching assistant, allowing you to choose the right school and working environment that aligns with your strengths and career goals.

Qualifications and Skills Needed

To become a teaching assistant in the UK, it’s essential to have the right qualifications and skills. This section outlines the minimum requirements, desirable qualifications, and transferable skills that will help you succeed in this role.

Minimum Requirements

At the very least, you should have a good standard of general education, such as GCSEs in English and Maths at grade C/4 or above. Some schools or local authorities may also require:

  • A Level 2 or Level 3 Qualification in Supporting Teaching and Learning
  • A NVQ Level 2 Qualification in Childcare and Education
  • First Aid Training
  • An Enhanced DBS Check

Desirable Qualifications

While not strictly necessary, some additional qualifications can make you more competitive when applying for teaching assistant roles:

  • A degree or diploma in a relevant subject, such as Education or Child Development
  • Specialist qualifications, e.g., in Special Educational Needs (SEN) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Additional language skills, especially if you want to work with English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners

See also: Teaching Assistant Courses Online

Transferable Skills

Beyond formal qualifications, successful teaching assistants possess a range of transferable skills that allow them to support students effectively:

Communication:You must be able to convey information clearly and adapt your communication style to suit the needs of different students.
Patience:Working with children requires patience and understanding, particularly when dealing with challenging behaviour or complex needs.
Organisation:Being organised is essential for managing the workload and supporting teachers with various tasks, such as lesson planning and resource preparation.
Teamwork:Teaching assistants must collaborate with teachers, parents, and other school staff to ensure students receive well-rounded support.
Initiative:Effective teaching assistants can identify when students need assistance and proactively offer support.

Armed with the right qualifications and skills, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on a rewarding career as a teaching assistant in the UK.

Finding and Applying for Teaching Assistant Jobs

Finding a rewarding Teaching Assistant position may seem daunting, but with the right approach, you can simplify the job search process to find a role that fits your skills and interests.

Job Search Tips

Begin by identifying the types of schools and educational institutions where you’d like to work. Consider factors such as location, the school’s ethos, and its student demographic. Some key job platforms to explore include:

  • Individual school websites
  • Local authority job boards
  • Online job portals like Guardian Jobs or Indeed

Remember to follow your favourite schools and educational institutions on social media as they frequently post job announcements.

Preparing Your CV and Application

A well-crafted CV and cover letter are crucial to secure an interview. For your CV:

  • Highlight your educational background, particularly any teaching or childcare qualifications
  • Include any relevant work or volunteering experience
  • Emphasise your transferable skills, such as communication, organisation, and problem-solving abilities

In your cover letter, demonstrate your passion for becoming a teaching assistant and personalise each application to show that you understand the values and requirements of the school to which you’re applying.

Acing the Interview

Thorough preparation will help you excel in your teaching assistant interview. Here are some top tips:

  • Research the specific school and their ethos
  • Review the national curriculum and any special needs frameworks
  • Prepare responses to common teaching assistant interview questions, including examples of how you’ve managed challenging situations
  • Consider possible lesson plans or tasks to showcase your teaching skills (some interviews may involve a practical element)

Remember to maintain a professional appearance, exemplify your communication skills, and most importantly, be yourself during the interview process. Prospective employers value genuine passion and commitment to education.

Career Advancement and Professional Development

As a teaching assistant in the UK, continuous professional development is crucial for your career advancement. This section outlines the further training opportunities and career pathways available to you.

Further Training Opportunities

Many teaching assistants choose to enhance their skills and knowledge through further training courses. Some of these include:

  • HLTA status: Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) status allows you to take on more responsibilities in the classroom, including planning, teaching and assessing pupils under the supervision of a teacher.
  • Specialist qualifications: These enable you to focus on specific areas of interest, such as supporting pupils with special educational needs (SEN) or English as an additional language (EAL).
  • Foundation degrees: Studying for a foundation degree in education or a relevant subject can enhance your career prospects and enable you to progress to a full degree in the future.

Career Pathways

With experience and further education, you can pursue a variety of career pathways within the education sector, such as:

  • Senior teaching assistant: As you gain experience, you may be entrusted with additional responsibilities, including coordinating and managing other teaching assistants within your school.
  • SEN support: If you have a passion for supporting pupils with special educational needs, you can specialise in SEN support roles, such as SEN intervention, SEN coordination or SEN pastoral care.
  • Further study and teaching: If you aspire to become a fully qualified teacher, you can undertake further study through a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), School Direct or a university-led teacher training programme.

As you progress in your career as a teaching assistant, make the most of the opportunities available to you, develop your skills and qualifications and follow the career pathway that best suits your interests and goals.

Teaching Assistant Course Online