Looking to become a teaching assistant? We are going to talk you through:

  • What a teaching assistant job involves
  • What qualifications you need to become one
  • The opportunities available for career progression

If you’re looking for teaching assistant jobs, it’s an excellent idea to build up your experience, transferable skills and qualifications. A key part of teaching assistant jobs is to work closely with teachers to support children with learning activities in nursery, infant, junior, special, secondary or independent schools.

Full-time teaching assistants work 30-40 hours per week, on a starting salary of around £13,000 per year. There is then the possibility to progress to Senior Higher Level Teaching Assistant, which would mean earning almost double that amount. 

Teaching assistant job role

Teaching assistants support teachers, helping children with their educational and social development. The precise job role depends on the school and the age of the children, but may include:

  • Preparing and clearing up the classroom
  • Helping children who need extra support, individually or in small groups.
  • Helping teachers with planning learning activities and completing records
  • Supporting teachers to manage behaviour in the classroom
  • Supervision of group activities
  • Helping with outings and sports events
  • Administrative tasks
  • If you’re bilingual, working with children whose first language is not English
  • Assisting with practical sessions, e.g. in science.

Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs) have more responsibilities, e.g.:

  • Planning lessons and preparing teaching materials, with teachers
  • Working alongside teachers to support learning activities
  • Being a specialist assistant in certain subjects
  • Leading classes (under teacher’s direction)
  • Supervision of support staff
  • Assessing, recording and reporting on children’s progress. 

Entry requirements for teaching assistant jobs

Individual schools determine their own desirable entry requirements, qualifications and experience. As a teaching assistant you will need to demonstrate, or acquire:

  • Experience of working with children. Volunteering to help in a school is a good start – even for a few hours per week
  • Capacity to develop positive relationships with children, teachers, parents and carers
  • Understanding of the basics of how children learn and develop
  • Creativity and flexibility
  • Team working ability
  • Good reading, writing and numeracy skills. Most paid jobs require you to have English/Maths at GCSE or equivalent, but if you haven’t got them, don’t let this put you off.

In some jobs, IT skills or local community languages are desirable. Qualifications in early years, childcare, play or youth work can also be useful. If you have enough experience, or can demonstrate the right personality and potential, schools may accept you and train you on the job. The following qualifications are available to those who are volunteering, are seeking a teaching assistant job, or who are newly in the role:

  • Level 2 Award: Support Work in Schools
  • Level 2 Certificate: Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools.

There is normally a short, nationally approved induction training programme once you start work. Further training is available, depending on your responsibilities, at local colleges and through on-the-job training, including:

  • Level 3 Award: Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
  • Level 3 Certificate: Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
  • Level 3 Diploma: Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools.

Opportunities for progression

With experience, you may also be able to progress to become a senior assistant, or apply to train and be assessed for Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) status. You need the support of your head teacher or school manager for this.

Experienced teaching assistants can study for a foundation degree in an area like Teaching and Learning Support. Other relevant awards and qualifications can be seen on the support staff qualifications pages of the Department for Education website: Department for Education - support staff qualifications

With the right entry requirements, you could also go on to train as a teacher.