What is a teaching assistant?
A teaching assistant (TA) is someone who supports learning in schools. Working with pupils and teachers, they provide help and support in the classroom and beyond – ensuring that every child, regardless of background, can fulfil their potential.
Becoming a teaching assistant promises a rewarding and varied career, in which you’ll always be taking on challenges and meeting new people. The great thing about being a TA is that the work you do will make a real and profound difference to young people, giving them the support and guidance they need to succeed.
What does a teaching assistant do?
As class sizes continue to grow, it’s easy to miss children that are falling behind, especially if they are unlikely to ask for help. Teaching assistants ensure those children are noticed and receive the additional support they need to succeed.
TA's also help facilitate constructive and positive relationships between pupils, teachers, parents, and other school staff members.
What skills do you need to be a teaching assistant?
Becoming an effective teaching assistant can be challenging as well as rewarding, so you’ll need the right attributes to take on the demands of the position.
Here are a few of the skills and characteristics required for the role:
- Positive outlook towards children and young people.
- Patient, empathetic, and compassionate personality.
- Strong written and verbal communication skills.
- A proactive approach to learning new skills, policies, and practices.
- Innate respect for diversity and equality.
- Outstanding team-working skills.
- Creative aptitude.
- A principled approach to safeguarding, wellbeing, and safety.
- Professional attitude.
- Excellent organisational skills.
What are the duties and responsibilities of a teaching assistant?
As a teaching assistant, every day will be different, making it all the more enjoyable. Generally, the role of a teaching assistant includes:
- Working with the teacher to implement learning strategies.
- Helping to set up the learning environment.
- Assisting in the preparation of teaching materials.
- Contributing to pupil progress reports and reviews.
- Monitoring student progress and flagging any pupils falling behind their peers.
- Helping to manage student behaviour.
- Administrative tasks such as arranging trips and organising the classroom.
- Ensuring students are engaged and maintain focus.
- Supporting safeguarding efforts.
- Listening to pupils in distress and finding a resolution.
- Promoting positive behaviour with compassionate, measured guidance.
How long does it take to become a teaching assistant?
Entry requirements for a teaching assistant role will vary from school to school. With that said, all entry-level positions will require literacy and numeracy qualifications at GCSE level.
For more senior positions, a degree with placements may be required to demonstrate your knowledge and skills.
Some schools will offer an entry-level teaching assistant role and support the employee in further study to progress their careers.
What qualifications and experience do you need to become a teaching assistant?
The qualifications you need to become a teaching assistant depend on the entry level. For example, junior TAs typically need GCSEs (National 4 and 5 in Scotland) or equivalent in maths and English, while for more senior positions, a degree may be required to demonstrate your skills.
Several route-of-entry TA qualifications can be completed before you start work in an education setting. These include most Level 1 courses, as well as some Level 2.
For more advanced teaching assistant qualifications, however, you’ll need to be working in a school or gaining experience as part of a practical work-based placement. Once you’re working in a school, to become fully qualified as a TA you’d need to complete a nationally recognised qualification such as the NCFE CACHE Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning. There are other qualifications you could also take to boost your skills, knowledge, and career potential, such as:
- NCFE CACHE Level 1 Award in Safeguarding in a Learning Environment
- NCFE CACHE Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Specific Learning Difficulties
- Additional Support for Children with Special Education Needs (SEN)
- NCFE CACHE Level 4 Certificate for the Early Years Advanced Practitioner
- NCFE Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET)
Expanding your skillset with relevant teaching assistant qualifications can help progress your career, giving you the skills and expertise to take on more responsibility in the classroom. View our full range of distance learning teaching assistant courses here.
Relevant experience working with children can also be a bonus when applying for TA positions. Whether it’s childcare, nursery assisting, or voluntary youth work; any experience you have of working with children and young people will be a major plus on your application.
How much do teaching assistants earn?
Unlike teachers, there’s no national pay scale for teaching assistants. However, most schools and academies follow local government salary guidelines for TA practitioners.
How much does a teaching assistant earn?
Below, we’ve set out typical salaries for teaching assistant positions at different qualification levels.
- Entry Level-Level 1: Permanent TAs can expect a salary of around £17,000
- Level 2: At Level 2, additional responsibilities mean you could be paid between £18,000-£21,000.
- Level 3 and over: Full-time Level 3 (and above) TAs could earn up to and above £25,000, depending on their skills, qualifications, and experience.
The above salaries are for reference only and will vary depending on the school and the local authority area. It’s also worth noting that many teaching assistants don’t work full-time hours; instead, they work part-time or on a term-time, pro-rata basis.
Do teaching assistants get paid during holidays?
In addition to playing a part in helping students realise and fulfil their potential, another big draw to this career is the six weeks holiday. And the great news is that if you sign a full-time permanent contract, you'll have the six-week break and all other school holidays as paid leave.
However, if you sign a term-time-only contract, you won't get paid for the six-week break, but you will be able to take approximately four or five weeks of annual leave each year.
What type of person would suit being a teaching assistant?
Becoming an effective teaching assistant can be challenging, so you’ll need the right attributes to take on the demands of the position. Remember, you’ll be working alongside students with all sorts of behavioural, social, and physical care needs, meaning a lot of responsibility rests on your shoulders.
Here are a few of the skills, attributes, and characteristics required for the role.
- Positive outlook towards children and young people
- Patient, empathetic, and compassionate personality
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Proactive approach to learning new skills, policies, and practices
- Innate respect for diversity and equality
- Outstanding team-working skills
- Creative aptitude
- Principled approach to safeguarding, wellbeing, and safety
- Professional attitude
- Excellent organisational skills.
What are the benefits of becoming a teaching assistant?
Pursuing a role as a teaching assistant promises a challenging and fulfilling career where you'll be working to improve the learning and wellbeing of hundreds of young people over the years. So let's take a closer look at the benefits you can enjoy as a qualified TA:
- Job satisfaction – helping young people realise their potential is something you can’t put a price on, so job satisfaction is guaranteed.
- Variety – ‘no two days are the same’ may sound like a tired expression, but it is true of a teaching assistant position. New challenges can arise at a minute’s notice, so you’re always kept on your toes.
- Skill-building – teaching assistant roles are broad, with several avenues to pursue to build your skills, knowledge, and expertise.
- Working with young people – if you love interacting with children and young people, a career as a TA is ideal for you. You'll meet new faces every year and have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to your students' future.
- Flexible working hours – TA positions aren’t always permanent and full-time. Your hours of work may be flexible, giving you an excellent work-life balance.
- People and community – if you’re a ‘people person’, a TA position means you’ll be part of a large community of teachers, parents, social workers, safeguarding officers, and fellow TAs, all working towards the same goals.
- Limitless opportunities – did you know that many teaching assistants go on to become fully qualified teachers? A TA position can be the jumping-off point for a long and varied career in education, with a whole range of courses and qualifications to help you achieve your goals.
What career progression can a teaching assistant expect?
Expanding your skillset with relevant teaching assistant qualifications can help progress your career, giving you the skills and expertise to take on more responsibility in the classroom.
Many qualified teaching assistants branch out into other areas after getting their first job. The range of teaching assistant courses available means you’re in control of your career trajectory, and just some of the pathways you might consider include:
- Higher-level teaching assistant.
- SEN teaching assistant.
- Studying to become a teacher
Ready to become a teaching assistant?
If so, the team at Oxbridge are here to help you every step of the way. Whether you are looking for the main level 3 qualification or additional courses to boost your employability and help you be a more effective TA, we can help you select the right course for you.
Why not browse our list of teaching assistant courses or speak with one of our learning advisors via live chat? We’d love to be part of your journey to an extremely rewarding career.