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Teaching & Education careers

Teaching Assistant

Why be a teaching assistant?

Teaching, although extremely rewarding, can be very tricky at times. Unruly children, children whose mother tongue isn’t English, or others who struggle with certain areas of the curriculum can create extra challenges for teachers. In these circumstances, lessons for the majority of the students can be affected unless the teacher receives some assistance.

Enter the teaching assistant. With over 243,000 teaching assistants working in the UK right now (that’s one for every two teachers in state schools), there is a huge amount of opportunity to develop a satisfying and influential career in this area - perhaps starting with a graduate job.

What will my responsibilities be as a teaching assistant?

A teacher must deliver the curriculum as prescribed. If they are unable to keep up with the schedule, it can create problems which are not easily rectified. If a teacher spends five minutes trying to calm somebody down, another two disciplining somebody and another five explaining an equation to one particular pupil, then they will have already taken twelve unplanned minutes out of their limited time to do things.

Teaching assistants are required to assist in delivering the curriculum, explaining a particular point or translating certain phrases. They help to keep the lesson moving and prevent the teacher from getting distracted by other things, allowing them to concentrate on maintaining educational standards.

How do I get in as a teaching assistant?

Broadly speaking, there are two options if you want to break into this career area:

  1. Teaching assistant
  2. Higher level teaching assistant.

Teaching assistants will usually work part-time or have flexible working hours. Depending on the school and the local education authority (LEA), the qualifications required for these careers will vary. However, proficiency in English and maths, as well as relevant experience in assisting children, is usually sufficient.

If you wish to become a higher level teaching assistant, though, you will need to get the support of the head teacher at the school you wish to work at. You will then undergo an assessment, which also includes a half-day visit to ensure that all of the HLTA (Higher Level Teaching Assistant) standards are met.

What roles does a teaching assistant perform?

A teaching assistant’s role focuses on assisting teachers with any games or sports they may be playing, supervising play areas, helping children with special needs or helping teachers with the various administrative procedures that their jobs require.

This kind of career is most commonly pursued in nurseries and primary schools. However, teaching assistants also feature in secondary schools. In this case, they will generally work with children with special needs, helping them get to each lesson and assisting them with anything else that is required.

Higher level teaching assistants are more heavily involved in administering lesson plans, assisting teachers with learning activities and sometimes running the lessons themselves (especially if a teacher is unavailable). Generally, however, they will be responsible for delivering support materials and ensuring that lessons run as smoothly as possible.

Teaching assistance is absolutely crucial in the provision of education, so it is a massively important subsector. If you would like to work in a school, taking some of the strain of teachers while helping children to develop both mentally and socially, this could be just the right career path for you to take.