How to Become a Teaching Assistant
The number of teaching assistants (TA’s) in British schools has risen dramatically in recent years and today there are an estimated quarter of a million. And the demand seems set to continue.
Here at REESON Education, we are frequently asked the question “how can I become a teaching assistant, must I undergo training and do I need qualifications?” to answer this question we shall look at the role of the TA in the classroom and the skills needed to fulfil this important role.
Do I need qualifications?
The short answer is no, officially, you don’t need formal qualifications, but some schools/local authorities will specify teaching assistants should have GCSE Maths and English – minimum grade C – before being even considered for employment. Specialist skills such as proficiency in IT and languages are often looked upon favourably by head teachers.
Although there is no national set entry-level qualification for teaching assistants, local authorities do set guidelines and criteria when recruiting support staff. Depending on these guidelines, you may need to commit to some form of training.
Do I need experience?
Experience of working in a classroom environment is seen as essential towards becoming a teaching assistant. To this end, many assistants gain entry to the profession through undertaking voluntary work at a local school or in childcare and are able to provide references.
Identify the Kind of Teaching That Suits You
Before going any further, the first thing to do is identify the kind of teaching assistant job you would like: the amount of time you wish to work, and the age groups you wish to work with – this could be, pre-school, primary school, secondary school, or a special educational needs school.
You will also need to make a decision as to where you want to work and how far you are willing to travel. This decision will be based on your personal circumstances and how the role can fit in with your family and other commitments.
The First Step to Becoming a Teaching Assistant
Once you’ve identified where you would like to work and the age group of pupils you would like to work with, the next step is to find out the requirements for becoming a teaching assistant in your chosen area. As there are no nationally recognised qualifications, local authorities set their own guidelines and you should check these details carefully.
How to Find out Which Schools Need Teaching Assistants
Having determined exactly what is required in order to work in your chosen geographical location, it’s then time to start finding out which schools are looking for support staff. You may be able to get this information through the local press, teaching related recruitment agencies, online, by direct enquiry, or through contacts associated with the school – your children, friends, family members, someone who has links to the school.
How the Application Process Works
Teaching assistants go through a formal application process, just as any teacher must. At the beginning of the application process you should be provided with a job description, outlining the duties and responsibilities of the assistant – you should read these carefully. Outlined below are the typical skills required for teaching assistants:
Good reading, writing and numeracy skills are always essential
Good communication skills
A friendly manner, and the ability to build good relationships with both pupils and staff
Good organisational skills
The ability to manage groups of pupils
The ability to remain calm under pressure and manage difficult behaviour effectively
It is also worth remembering that all professions that involve caring or working with children as part of the job description must undergo a criminal record check before starting work. Schools will carry out an enhanced background check through the Disclosure and Barring Service before accepting anyone into a teaching assistant position.
Becoming a teaching assistant can bring a great deal of job satisfaction. A good TA brings benefit to both the pupils and the teacher: taking on some of the day to day stress and lightening the workload. As with many things in life, getting that all important first foot in the door can be difficult, but the rewards for perseverance can be great.