what is a teaching assistant?

Helping children learn means more than simply delivering lessons. A successful school day needs well-organised classrooms, a quiet atmosphere and plenty of resources, from worksheets to laptops. The support staff who make all of these things possible are teaching assistants. As one of them, you'll support teachers, taking care of these behind-the-scenes tasks and leaving them free to concentrate on planning and delivering their lessons. Your organisational skills and ability to balance a wide variety of different responsibilities will help teachers do their best work in the classroom. 

teaching assistants and the learning environment

There's more to being a teaching assistant than arranging desks and photocopying worksheets. A happy, productive learning environment depends on a great classroom atmosphere – and that's where you'll come in. By helping learners with their work and supervising student behaviour, you'll help to create an environment where every child can learn. Outside the school, you'll help with school trips and other activities such as parent-teacher evenings. The personal attention you can give your learners, both in and out of the classroom, will be a vital part of creating engaging, fulfilling classes.   

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average salary of a teaching assistant

As a full-time teaching assistant, you'll earn an average salary of around £17,904 per year. This is based on figures collected by the Office for National Statistics. As your career progresses, you'll encounter more opportunities to improve your salary. Experienced assistants earn up to £23,000 per year.

factors affecting teaching assistant salaries

As a teaching assistant, your working hours will differ from workers in typical office jobs. As a result, part-time contracts or contracts covering only the school term are common. With a contract like this one, you'll gain more free time and the opportunity for summer work, but it will reduce your take-home pay. 

Your salary also depends on your location and the type of school you work in. Many schools follow local government pay scales, making salaries fairly predictable. However, free schools and independent schools don't need to adhere to these guidelines, and not every local authority uses them. As a result, salaries can vary from place to place. Qualifications are another important factor in determining your salary. If you have training or experience working with special educational needs (SEN) teachers, for instance, you'll be able to attract higher offers. 
 

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types of teaching assistants

If you take up a career as a teaching assistant, you should be prepared to work wherever in the school you're needed. Especially in the early part of your career, you won't specialise in one particular type of class or student. However, as your career progresses, you may want to pursue training in working with SEN students. Because SEN classes often call for a smaller number of children per adult, this kind of experience is in high demand.

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working as a teaching assistant

Being a teaching assistant is a very varied career. You'll perform a wide range of different tasks, working with learners of all ages in many different types of classroom.

teaching assistant job description

Your role as a teaching assistant will be to support learning, both in the classroom and out. This support can take many forms. Outside of class, your responsibilities will include: 

  • arranging classroom furniture and equipment
  • making class resources such as handouts, worksheets or presentations
  • monitoring student progress and maintaining class records
  • creating displays of student work and other classroom decorations

By taking on these administrative tasks, you can give the teachers you support more time to focus on lesson planning, marking and other pressing jobs. But your support will be just as essential in the classroom as out of it. In the classroom itself, you will take on jobs including: 

  • monitoring the class to identify behavioural issues
  • providing extra assistance to learners so that the teacher can continue with the lesson
  • guiding learners through class activities
  • reading aloud, handing out work, and other forms of teaching support

In addition, you'll supervise students on school trips and at other events. 

promoting learning

These are only a few examples of the tasks you might be called on to help with as a teaching assistant. Anything that helps your classroom run smoothly will be within your remit. Even more important than these specific tasks, however, will be your role in creating the classroom environment. By modelling behaviour and promoting good learning practices, especially with younger children, you'll help build the habits that create success. 
 

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education and skills

There isn't a standard educational path to working as a teaching assistant. However, if you want to demonstrate some of the skills required in this career, consider pursuing a qualification. Relevant qualifications include: 

  • Level 1 Award in Preparing to Work in Schools
  • Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools 
  • Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
  • Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education

These qualifications and more can provide the necessary skills; some also include workplace experience. However, there are other ways to acquire the needed skills. For instance, a teaching assistant advanced apprenticeship provides a similar path into this role. 

experience in other roles

Many teaching assistants don't have formal qualifications in education. Instead, they have prior experience working with children or young people. You could gain similar experience by working in childcare. Other jobs that provide relevant experience include tutoring, youth social work and other roles that involve working with children. Previous work with children doesn't need to have been paid work. Volunteering can also provide valuable experience. 

Each teaching assistant role will have its own requirements, so familiarise yourself with opportunities in your area to see what qualifications employers are looking for. 

skills & competencies

If you have good literacy and numeracy skills, a job as a teaching assistant might be perfect for you. Unlike a teacher, you won't require specialist subject knowledge, but a wide range of other abilities are important. Most importantly, you'll need a patient and helpful attitude when working with children. The personal and communication skills needed to help children succeed are key to excelling in this role. No less important is a high regard for the safety and well-being of the children who will be in your care. You'll need to understand and carry out your school's policies, which can be quite detailed. 

skills outside the classroom

To be an effective teaching assistant, you'll need to have a flexible approach to work. Although school schedules are fixed, the tasks you'll be called on for every day will change frequently, sometimes on short notice. 

Do you have a can-do attitude and the willingness to pitch in wherever you're needed? If you have those as well as good communication and interpersonal skills, a job as a teaching assistant might be your next career move.
 

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FAQs

FAQs about working as a teaching assistant.

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