The role of a teaching assistant is a fantastic opportunity to support and develop children and young people in their most formative years. Additionally, the pay and conditions are not too bad either, after all, you get to work Monday to Friday, 9.00am until 3pm (ish) and you generally get around thirteen weeks holiday per year, which is fantastic if you have a family to support as you will only be working term time.
To obtain a position in a school, you can just volunteer, apply directly to a school for available positions as advertised, or apply through an agency to the position of most interest to you. If you wish volunteer, to say, support children with reading or mathematics, this could eventually provide an inroad into a paid position within a school.
If the school likes you and you like the school, volunteering could be a great way to achieve your goal of eventually obtaining a paid role. If you apply and are accepted for a paid position and you do not have the necessary required qualifications, it is likely that the school will support you to achieve the outcomes you, and they, require to meet their obligations.
The qualifications available to teaching assistants have been developed for people who are working, or planning to work, in any type of educational setting, whether this is primary, middle, or secondary school.
You may find yourself referred to under the general title of ‘teaching assistant’ within your school, but you may also be called a classroom assistant, school assistant, individual support assistant, special needs assistant, or learning support assistant.
These different job titles have come into effect due to the different types of work which assistants are required to do within the classroom. These reflect the job roles which are now present in schools for learning support staff. As you work towards one of the qualifications, you will be developing your skills and expertise in a number of areas, and you will need to think about how the theory fits in with your experiences in the classroom. As you gain experience and expertise in your work with children and young people, you may also find the qualifications become a useful reference. Qualifications such as the following titles cover the requirements of a teaching assistant:
Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools. This is a knowledge based qualification and is an excellent lead in, or starting point, to becoming a Teaching Assistant. You do not have to be in a school to complete this qualification, however, knowledge of the education system will be an advantage.
Once you have been accepted for a paid position, or a volunteer placement within a school, you can then progress on to one of the following two qualifications depending on which level you feel most comfortable with, or as directed by the school. The qualifications differ in the level of complexity and require ‘observed practice’. Observed practice requires you to demonstrate your competence (show what you can do) rather than just confirming your knowledge, as per the Award qualification mentioned previously.
Level 2/3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
Thereafter, and once an opportunity arises, you can progress to become a Higher-Level Teaching Assistant which opens up a number of different opportunities, please follow the link below to get an understanding of the programme of study. A Higher-Level Teaching Assistant will take on more responsibility and will be capable of covering for the teacher as and when required – this is likely to be during periods when the teacher is called away to an unplanned meeting, or during a period of sickness which cannot be covered by temporary, or other, teaching staff:
Level 4 Higher Level Teaching Assistant Certificate
Those who achieve the Higher-Level Teaching Assistant qualification can then be given the status by the school – (status is ‘granted’ by the school and ‘not achieved’ by completing a qualification). When the HLTA qualification is achieved and the Higher-Level Teaching Assistant status is in place, individuals can progress onto a scheme known as ‘Train to Teach’. The Train to Teach scheme allows successful candidates to complete a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE – Teacher Training Degree) whilst working in the school, this is completed over a period of two years and whilst continuing to receive a salary. This is an excellent and the most cost-effective way possible to achieving a degree. Alternatively, you can apply directly to University to be considered for a place, this may also require the applicant to have additional qualifications such as A Levels etc.
The role of a teaching assistant, or higher level teaching assistant, may also allow individuals an opportunity to specialise in particular areas, such as, supporting children and young people who have learning disabilities, mental health problems, behavioural problems, autism etc. Whatever the challenges presented by individual children within the school environment, the school will have appropriate policies, procedures and training schedules in place to cover these areas and many more.
It is also likely that as a teaching assistant or HLTA you will receive training appropriate to safeguarding, Prevent, first aid, etc. It is not that surprising just how much training is required, after all, children and young people need to be supported and nurtured to achieve their full potential and as a teaching assistant or HLTA, you will certainly be able to influence this agenda.
Teaching Assistant pay scales will vary depending on many factors including hours of work and local government arrangements. Typically, a newly appointed teaching assistant will receive an average salary of around £13.600 whilst higher level teaching assistant should expect to receive a salary of approximately £18, 000, and again, this will be dependent on local government arrangements.