How to Become a Teaching Assistant

Teaching is a very rewarding but often challenging profession, so to provide extra support, teaching assistants or TAs help with the daily tasks associated with teaching in a classroom. In the recent pandemic, the role of teaching assistants (sometimes called classroom assistants) became even more important as many schools kept their doors open during lockdown to the children of key workers and vulnerable children.
Becoming a teaching assistant is a way to sample the classroom without all of the responsibilities of teaching and can be a career or a stepping stone towards full-time teaching. Have you thought about taking on an educational role but you lack the relevant teaching experience? Becoming a teaching assistant may be the best way to enter the teaching industry without experience or a degree. In this guide, we will detail what a teaching assistant does in the classroom and how to become a teaching assistant in the UK.

What is a Teaching Assistant?

A teaching assistant, also referred to as a TA, learning support assistant, or teacher’s aide works in a classroom under the supervision of a teacher. As the name suggests, a teaching assistant supports teaching and non-teaching tasks that enable the teacher to have more time to focus on the lesson. TAs often give extra assistance to pupils or help with lessons and supervision, but the duties are varied and will differ depending on the school and its needs. The requirements may vary from school to school, but in most cases, the duties of a TA can include:

  • Providing a safe learning environment
  • Preparing lesson plans and activities
  • Supervising a classroom of students in the brief absence of the teacher
  • Supporting the teaching of hygiene, discipline and moral values
  • Supporting with admin tasks such as maintaining student records
  • Escorting students between classes
  • Assisting students who require additional emotional and educational support
  • Supporting students with special educational needs (as with SEN teaching assistants)
  • Promoting positive behaviour and helping the teacher when handling incidents of challengingbehaviour in the classroomSupporting the pupils to stay on track with the lesson and assisting where necessary
  • Preparing the classroom for a lesson and clearing away after a lesson, leaving the teacher free to focus on teaching
  • Monitoring and recording the progress of the students and sharing information with the teacher
  • Working in small groups with students or providing 1-1 support, for example reading to pupils or listening to pupils read
  • Reviewing lessons, homework and assignments
  • Supervising school outings, group activities and sports events
  • Providing support to children who are unwell or upset

This list is not exhaustive and the ideal teaching assistant needs to be adaptable to the needs and requirements of the students and the school.

What Are The Benefits of Being a Teaching Assistant?

Being a teaching assistant is a challenging and diverse job that comes with plenty of benefits, making the role a rewarding and worthwhile one to pursue. Here are some of the perks of becoming a teaching assistant in the UK.

Provides A Foundation For Further Qualifications

If you choose to delve deeper into the teaching world, being a teaching assistant will provide valuable experience that will be useful if you choose to become a qualified teacher or take on another role in the education sector. You can go further as a teaching assistant by specialising in a particular department, like focusing on special educational needs and becoming an SEN teaching assistant. You can also go on to train as a higher-level teaching assistant or HTLA. A teaching assistant job will help you to decide what type of education job would suit you best.

Teaching Assistant Jobs Are Rewarding

The nature of a teaching assistant role means you’ll often have to work closely with students who may struggle in lessons and need a little extra help. Being able to witness the progress of students who have benefitted from your 1-1 support is hugely rewarding. You’ll be in a position to help pupils to overcome hurdles and encourage them to thrive at school. In some cases, you’ll be seen as a role model and even a friend but in every instance, your presence as a teaching assistant will make a positive difference in the classroom which is very rewarding.

Every Day Is Different As A Teaching Assistant

No two days are the same when you work as a teaching assistant so you will never face boredom at work. Flexibility is a required trait and you’ll have the ability to go with the flow daily. One day you may be helping to prepare class projects and assignments, the next day you could be chaperoning the class swimming trip. The varied nature of the job is just one of the reasons why many people make a career out of being a teacher’s assistant.

Teaching Assistant Jobs Provide Flexibility

Being able to fit a job around family life is ideal and getting a job in education is probably one of the best ways to fulfil that need. If you have children, there is no need to struggle to get time off during half term and summer holidays as you will be off work simultaneously. This can save money on childcare costs. No long work days or weekends mean extra time to spend with loved ones or to pursue hobbies and interests. Finding a healthy balance between work and free time is another perk of becoming a TA.


How To Become a Teaching Assistant?

There are a few routes to becoming a teaching assistant depending on your level of experience and qualifications. You can become a classroom assistant with no experience and no degree but you’ll need to take some steps to ensure you have the necessary skills. Here are some of the ways to become a TA without prior experience.

  • Complete a college course – You can take the following courses to get started in a teaching assistant position:
    Level 2 or 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
    Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education
    T Level in Education and Childcare

Each of the courses has entry requirements and you’ll need to have the following qualifications to be accepted on a course:

  • To be accepted on a level 2 course you’ll need 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or an equivalent qualification
  • To be accepted on a level 3 course you’ll need 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or an equivalent qualification.
  • To be accepted on a T-level course you’ll need 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent qualifications, including English and Maths
  • Participate in an apprenticeship or internship – A teaching assistant advanced apprenticeship can help you to get into the job and will provide valuable experience. Most employers will need you to have 5 GCSEs (grades A* to C) or the equivalent, including English and Maths to qualify for the apprenticeship.
  • Consider volunteering – Signing up to volunteer at your local library, offering to chaperone your child’s school trip or helping out at your local youth club are a few ways to gain some experience with children that will be helpful in a TA role.
  • Gain experience on the job – If you already have some experience in supervising children (parenting and babysitting does count as experience) and you feel confident, you can simply apply for jobs as a teaching assistant and get experience while you work. Finding the right teaching assistant job can be difficult as a newcomer to the education sector, so registering with a reputable teaching assistant recruitment agency will help you to find a position in the right school

What Makes A Good Teaching Assistant?

Although previous experience or a degree is not essential for becoming a teaching assistant, some skills and personality traits are necessary to have to become a good TA. To be a successful teaching assistant, you’ll need:

  • Excellent communication skills – it will be your job to communicate with the students effectively to motivate them to learn and support their emotional needs
  • Active listening skills – being a good listener helps to build good relationships with the students and will be useful when dealing with bullying or safeguarding issues
  • Care and sensitivity – because every student is different and you’ll need to be attentive to the varying needs of the students
  • Creative skills – the ability to help students to learn in interesting and creative ways will be essential in the classroom
  • Endurance and patience – a classroom environment can be a challenging place and working with children takes patience. You’ll need the ability to stay calm during stressful situations and stamina to make it through difficult days
  • A positive attitude – having the ability to encourage children to enjoy learning and to be a positive influence as a role model is an important trait to have. Your attitude can be the difference between whether students enjoy their time in your classroom or not
  • Basic computer skills – you’ll need to support the teacher with basic admin and other computer-related tasks
  • Flexibility – being able to switch between different activities and teaching styles will be very useful when it comes to supporting children with different abilities
  • A passion for the job – your interest in helping young people and your passion for making a difference will be key to your longevity in the role of a TA

Find Teaching Assistant Jobs With First for Education.

At First for Education, we are a leading teacher recruitment agency in the West Midlands and we’ve spent nearly 20 years building strong relationships with each local authority so that we can match the right teaching assistant with the right school. We also provide ongoing training and free teaching resources so that we can continue to deliver a superior service to the schools in our local communities.

If you’re ready to become a teaching assistant in the West Midlands, contact our friendly and professional staff for more information, or take a look at the latest teaching assistant vacancies here.

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