30-40 per week
£12,000 + per year
If you enjoy working with children and would like to play a part in their education and wellbeing, a job as a teaching assistant could be ideal for you.
Local education authorities and individual schools usually decide which qualifications or what experience they want applicants to have. If you have enough experience of working with children or can show employers that you have the right personality and potential, you may be able to start work without qualifications and train on the job.
Once you’ve started work as a teaching assistant in a nursery, infant or junior school, special school, secondary school or independent school, there are good opportunities to develop your career by completing further qualifications right up to Higher Level Teaching Assistant.
You could also go on to train as a teacher if you meet the entry requirements.
As a teaching assistant you would support teachers and help children with their educational and social development, both in and out of the classroom. Your exact job will depend on the school and the age of the children.
Your job may include:
- getting the classroom ready for lessons
- listening to children read, reading to them or telling them stories
- helping children who need extra support to complete tasks
- helping teachers to plan learning activities and complete records
- supporting teachers in managing class behaviour
- supervising group activities
- looking after children who are upset or have had accidents
- clearing away materials and equipment after lessons
- helping with outings and sports events
- taking part in training
- carrying out administrative tasks.
You would also support children with particular needs, working with them individually or in small groups.
In some schools you could have a specialism, such as literacy, numeracy or special educational needs (SEN). If you are bilingual, you might do more work with children whose first language is not English.
At secondary level, you're likely to concentrate on working with individuals and small groups and, depending on the subject, you may assist with practicals, for example in science.
A teaching assistant might also be called classroom assistant or learning support assistant.
Higher Level Teaching Assistant
As a Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) you would have more responsibility. This could include:
- working alongside teachers to support learning activities
- helping to plan lessons and prepare teaching materials
- acting as a specialist assistant for particular subjects
- leading classes under the direction of the teacher
- supervising other support staff.
You would also assess, record and report on the progress of children you work with.
Full-time teaching assistants work up to 40 hours a week, during term time, with a typical day starting between 8.30am and 9.15am and finishing around 3.15pm to 4pm.
You might also take part in other activities such as school outings, staff meetings and training, which could mean working extra hours. Many teaching assistants work part-time.
You would work either in the classroom, or with individual children or small groups in a separate room nearby.
Salaries for full-time teaching assistants range from £12,000 to over £17,000 a year.
Salaries for full-time HLTAs can be between £16,000 and £21,000 a year. This will vary depending on the Local Education Authority (LEA) and the responsibilities of individual jobs.
There is no national pay scale and wage rates are set by each LEA. Teaching assistants who work part-time, or are paid only for term-time, earn a proportion of full-time rates. This is known as pro rata payment.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
LEAs and individual schools decide which qualifications and experience they want applicants to have. You can get an idea of what you are likely to need by looking at jobs advertised locally or by checking your LEA's vacancies online.
Previous qualifications in nursery work, childcare, play work or youth work can be useful for finding work. If you have enough experience of working with children or can show employers that you have the right personality and potential, you may be able to start work without qualifications. Volunteering to help in a local school for a few hours a week is a good way to start.
The following qualifications are also available for those not yet employed in the role and for those just new to the job, whether paid or volunteering:
- Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools
- Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools.
Most paid jobs will require you to have qualifications in literacy and numeracy at GCSE or equivalent.
Before you can begin working with the children, the school will carry out enhanced background checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) - formerly the Criminal Records Bureau. See the DBS website for more details.
You may be able to become a teaching assistant through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.
You can find more information on careers and qualifications for school support staff on the Department for Education and Skills4Schools websites.
Training and development
Once you are working as a teaching assistant you would normally complete short, nationally approved induction training. Some LEAs also offer a range of in-house training, which could lead to qualifications.
You can work towards several qualifications, depending on your responsibilities, which include:
- Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
- Level 3 Certificate Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
- Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools.
These qualifications are widely available at local colleges and through on-the-job training like Apprenticeships. Check with course providers about entry requirements.
To gain the certificate and diploma you would be assessed at work, so your job would need to include responsibilities suited to each qualification.
As an experienced teaching assistant, you may be able to study for a foundation degree. These are available at colleges and universities, and have various titles such as Teaching and Learning Support. You can find a list of courses by searching under Teaching Assistant Studies in the subject group section of the UCAS foundation degree website.
To find out about relevant awards and qualifications visit the support staff qualifications pages of the Department for Education website.
Higher Level Teaching Assistant
With experience, you may also be able to take on more responsibility by applying for training and assessment for Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) status. You would need the support of your head teacher or school manager before you could be considered for this.
For details visit the Department for Education website.
Skills, interests and qualities
As a teaching assistant you will need:
- experience of working with children
- the ability to build good relationships with children, teachers, parents and carers
- a basic understanding of how children develop and learn
- flexibility and creativity
- the ability to work as part of a team
- good reading, writing and numeracy skills
- patience and a sense of humour
- the ability to manage groups of children and cope with challenging behaviour.
In some jobs it could be useful if you have IT skills or are fluent in local community languages.
Department for Education - support staff
You could work as a teaching assistant in nursery, infant or junior schools, special schools, secondary schools or independent schools. There is usually a lot of competition for jobs.
With experience you may be able to progress to senior assistant or be assessed for Higher Level Teaching Assistant status.
You could also go on to train as a teacher if you meet the entry requirements. To find out about careers in teaching, check the teacher profiles on this website or visit the National College for Teaching and Leadership's Get into Teaching information.
You may find the following links useful for vacancies and general reading: