Being a teaching assistant can sometimes be difficult. You need to be able to support a teacher in a range of different ways, from providing individual help to children with special educational needs, through to being able to step in and lead a lesson if needed. In this way, a teaching assistant is expected to cover a range of different duties, and has to be flexible and ready to work as part of a team. The diversity of the role is underpinned by a number of qualification requirements, as well as a willingness to work in full time, part time and temporary roles.
1 - Education and Qualification
Teaching assistants can come from a range of backgrounds. While they are generally expected to be 18 and over, they don’t require the same degree level education and PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) skill set as full time teachers. Teaching assistants can also be part time, and can return to the job after a significant period out of it. A general education is, however, recommended, as is the ability to pass basic numeracy, literacy and information skill tests. Induction programmes for teaching assistants are also available, as are BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) and Diplomas for more advanced roles.
A Higher Level Teaching Assistant can step in and teach lessons if needed. Other teaching assistants can improve their employability and skill sets by completing CSCHE Level 2 Certificates for Teaching Assistants, as well as NVQs in Early Year care and Education. Level 2 City and Guild qualifications in Support Work and Skills, and Level 3 Diplomas in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning are also available. Any prospective teaching assistant should sign up for an agency, and should expect to receive a Criminal Records check.
2 - Expected Tasks
Teaching assistants can expect to support classroom activities by helping children with completing tasks, as well as focusing on particular needs for literacy and numeracy. They may also need to work in a special needs environment, whereby they will provide additional tutoring or classroom management. In primary schools, a teaching assistant may have to help out with stories and activities, while working as part of a team for school trips and sports days.
3 - Preparation and Skills
If working as part of a specific subject or task, a teaching assistant can make their role more productive by developing a portfolio of lesson plans, and media examples for students to use. These examples can range from everything from magazine cuttings to video clips and online sources. A good teaching assistant should also acquaint themselves with classroom management skills, while also knowing how to deal with any difficult students and abuse.
4 - Team Work
Teaching assistants need to be able to follow a lead teacher’s direction without feeling like they are being given the less attractive jobs, such as dealing with difficult children. Work can be time consuming and quite stressful, so it is important that a clear relationship is established within a set of teachers over what roles are realistically expected to be completed.
Teaching assistants also need to understand the chain of command within a school, and need to know who they speak to about any problems. Perhaps most importantly, a good teaching assistant is one that does n’t get take advantage of with extra tasks.
5 - Rewards
As with any teaching role, an assistant can benefit from extended school holidays, as well as the ability to get to know and help children on a one to one basis. The need for teaching assistants to help special needs and individual children’s skills can also provide significant job satisfaction. Remuneration typically falls within the £10,000-15,000 category, with options for further qualifications to be able to lead lessons.
Emily Steves is a secondary school teacher. She found her current post via London teacher agency GSL Education, and enjoys inspiring young minds, and the challenges her job presents. In her spare time Emily can be found blogging about her experiences and what they have taught her.