Teaching assistants perform an essential role within a classroom setting. They help the teacher deliver lessons, giving the teacher more time to teach or plan.
They work one-to-one with children who have learning difficulties or require additional support.
Teaching assistants help to prepare resources and create displays.
Part of the role is to also support children with the emotional and social development, making them invaluable to the pupils too.
If you are thinking about training to become a teaching assistant, then you are about to embark on a highly rewarding career.
You will play an integral part in helping young people of all ages achieve in a school setting.
But what do you need to do to become a teaching assistant?
What to Expect
Before you understand what you need to achieve academically, it’s important to understand what a day in the life of a teaching assistant could look like.
Of course, duties will vary from school to school, especially if the school has a high number of SEN pupils.
Primarily you'll be busy with a variety of tasks on any given day and may be asked to offer extra support at short notice. A proactive mindset is important as you’ll be expected to work independently and often problem solve on your feet.
There will be an expectation also to get stuck in and provide help as and when it's needed.
Depending on your role you may be asked to work one to one with pupils with behavioural issues, learning disabilities or who may just need a little extra help. You may also be asked to help pupils with physical disabilities get around the school.
Most of your duties will be classroom based but you may be asked to help supervising play and lunchtimes, help during class outings and oversee outdoor activities including PE.
So being adaptable is essential.
What Qualifications do I need?
You don’t need a degree to become a teaching assistant, although having one wouldn’t hurt your chances in an interview.
Qualifications and experience in childcare, nursery, youth work and play are also looked upon favourably.
For entry-level positions, you'll need to have basic literacy and numeracy skills, usually GCSE or equivalent (National 4 or 5 qualifications in Scotland) in maths or English, and experience of working with children.
Although not essential, there are a number of qualifications you can gain that will give you a stronger understanding of child development, how to handle challenging situations, encourage communication with children and plan lessons.
Some qualifications require a practical placement in an education setting but where this is the case it will be clearly signposted.
This approach will allow you to gain the qualifications you need and then apply for teaching assistant roles. Schools get to set their own requirements for teaching assistants so just bear that in mind when choosing the courses you want to study.
Alternatively, you can train to be a teaching assistant through an apprenticeship. This will be learning on the job supplemented with assignments. One of the advantages of this approach is you will get to earn as you learn.
Whichever route you take to becoming a teaching assistant you will also need to undergo an enhanced criminal records check through the Disclosure and Barring Service or Disclosure Scotland.
It takes a special kind of person to become a teaching assistant. If you’re considering working with children – with all the challenges that brings – you need to be made of the right stuff.
To be a teaching assistant you'll need to have:
- a positive approach to working with children
- the ability to motivate, inspire and build rapport with pupils and colleagues
- concern for pupil safety and well-being
- respect for diversity, as you'll be working with pupils from a range of backgrounds
- strong communication and interpersonal skills to build relationships with pupils, parents, teachers and governors
- reading, writing and numeracy skills
- excellent team working skills
- a flexible approach to work
- excellent organisational skills
- a professional attitude to work
- a willingness to keep up to date with educational policy and training related to your role.
While there is a teacher shortage in the UK, the same can’t be said for teaching assistants. Such roles are highly competitive so it’s important to bring as much experience to the interview as you can. It's essential you have some relevant work experience can include:
- sports activities
- summer camps
- youth work
There are a few structured work experience schemes but they are spread across the country and oversubscribed. However, most schools welcome enquiries for volunteer work as it provides them with a badly needed extra pair of hands.
Contact your local schools directly, explain your situation and what you hope to gain from the work experience, you availability etc and they will hopefully be able to help.
Courses with practical placements, such as education, youth work and childhood studies, will likely count as experience. But – again – because schools can set their own requirements, it’s worth checking before you apply.
All you need to do is choose the right course for you and enrol.
The good news is you can study your course through distance learning institutes. So, you can fit your studies around your work and personal life.
There are no evening classes or having to give up work to study.
You just enrol and start your learning at a pace you’re comfortable with. With online learning all the materials are ready and waiting. You get to dictate how and when you study.
Get in touch with our sales team or sign up today online. There are flexible payment terms available to help you spread the cost.
You will also have access to a dedicated tutor who will help you through the process. Check out our blog for useful tips on how to get the most out of your study experience.
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