Teaching assistants support children with their learning activities in the classroom.

What does a teaching assistant do?

Teaching assistants support teachers and help children with their educational and social development, both in and out of the classroom. The job will depend on the school and the age of the children.

This role can 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'll 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 help with 'practicals', for example in science.

Higher Level Teaching Assistant

Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) have more responsibility. This can 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

This role may also involve assessing, recording and reporting on children's progress.

What do I need to do to become a teaching assistant?

Individual schools set their own entry requirements and decide which qualifications and experience they want. You can get an idea of what you're 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, they may take you on and train you on the job. 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 2 Certificate 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).

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.

Related skills

  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Patience
  • Teamwork

Academic route

  • GCSEs, or equivalent, in English and maths

Vocational route

  • Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools
  • Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools

Related subjects

  • English
  • Maths

Where to find out more

Where could I be working?

You would work either in the classroom, or with individual children or small groups in a separate room nearby.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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