Teaching or classroom assistants support teachers by helping to supervise activities in the classroom, working with children on an individual, small group or whole class basis. Some teaching assistants work on a one-to-one basis with children with special educational needs.
Higher level teaching assistants may take on additional responsibilities such as teaching classes on their own, covering planned absences and allowing teachers time to plan and mark. They may also manage other learning support staff and report on children's progress.
Key responsibilities of teaching or learning support assistants include:
- supporting children across the curriculum, often with a particular focus on maths, reading and writing
- giving extra help to children with special needs or those for whom English is not their first language
- helping to develop programmes of learning activities and adapting appropriate materials
- motivating and encouraging pupils
- assisting with marking and correcting work
- attending meetings and reviews
- helping with school events, trips and activities
The role played by teaching assistants within schools can be vital in helping children gain basic literacy and numeric skills, particularly at key stage one.
- State-maintained schools
- Voluntary-controlled schools
- Independent schools
Vacancies are advertised in local authority vacancy lists, local and national newspapers and in publications such as the Times Educational Supplement. Schools may also recruit directly.
Previous experience of working with children is essential. This can be gained through direct approaches to schools, voluntary work, job shadowing, or by helping at summer camps or play schemes.
There are no fixed educational requirements for teaching assistant jobs, so this is a role that is open to both university graduates and school leavers. Some schools may ask for applicants who are educated to A level standard or equivalent as a minimum.
Graduates can have a degree in any discipline. Some teaching assistants are qualified nursery nurses who have completed an NVQ level 3 or CACHE diploma in early years/child care and education (formerly the NNEB).
There are several part-time courses available for those wishing to work in this area. These are normally non-examined courses based on assessed portfolios. Topics covered include the development of appropriate professional skills and knowledge, legal and national requirements and the provision of suitable activities in the classroom.