Teaching Assistant Careers

How to become Teaching Assistant

What does a Teaching Assistant do?

Teaching assistants help teachers in schools. Job titles vary, and may include classroom assistant; non-teaching assistant; learning support assistant; bilingual support assistant; and special needs assistant. In Scotland the term auxiliary is used for staff supporting children with special educational needs.

Some teaching assistants may be attached to a whole class, others may support one child or a small group of children with special educational needs. Duties vary depending on the particular job and the age of the children. Those working in primary schools are likely to have the following duties:

  • listening to children read, reading to them or telling them stories
  • supporting children in specific areas of the curriculum such as numeracy
  • assisting individual children to complete tasks
  • helping with routine administrative tasks
  • playing games with younger children and encouraging them to learn through play
  • making preparations for lessons, such as setting out equipment or recording educational TV programmes
  • supervising non-teaching areas such as dining rooms and playgrounds
  • escorting pupils between classes and on outings and sports events.
Most teaching assistants in secondary schools work as special needs assistants, supporting children who have disabilities or learning difficulties.

Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) is a new job role that will be available in England from Spring 2004. HTLAs will work under the direction and supervision of qualified teachers, to provide them with additional support. Duties could include working as a specialist assistant for a subject or department, contributing to lesson planning or developing support materials, or supervising a class.

What's the working environment like working as a Teaching Assistant?

Full-time teaching assistants normally work school hours, Monday to Friday. They usually only work during term-time but may sometimes have to be at school outside these times for training. Many teaching assistants work part-time.

Most of their time is spent indoors in classrooms and other parts of the school. They may sometimes work outdoors, for instance, on playground duty or on a school outing.

What does it take to become a Teaching Assistant?

To be a teaching assistant you should:

  • enjoy working with children and be interested in education
  • treat children and parents from all social and cultural backgrounds with respect
  • be able to build good relationships with children, their parents and carers, and with teachers
  • be able to work well under the supervision of a teacher and enjoy working as part of a team
  • be willing to be flexible and creative
  • have good literacy and numeracy skills
  • have a responsible attitude
  • be patient but firm when necessary
  • have lots of energy.
Other skills such as computer literacy or fluency in community languages may be an advantage for some jobs.

Teaching Assistant Career Opportunities

You can work as a teaching assistant throughout the UK, in nursery, infant or junior schools, special schools or in mainstream secondary schools. You could also work in an independent school.

Promotion to senior assistant is possible in some schools. HLTAs will be employed by many schools in England from Spring 2004 – schools are not obliged to offer the role, but the Teacher Training Agency envisages that 20,000 people will progress to HLTA status by 2007.

Some teaching assistants go on to train as teachers. A lot of attention is being given to helping teaching assistants to get into teacher training. However, you will need to meet the entry requirements which apply to all teachers. For more information see the Teacher profiles and the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) website. Contact details in Further Information.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Teaching Assistant that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers, jobcentres, in local authority job bulletins, which are available in libraries and other public offices and on the recruitment website for local government www.LGjobs.com

Higher Level Teaching Assistants


Local Government Employers

Teacher Training Agency
Teaching Information Line: 0845 6000 991 (English-speakers)
0845 6000 992 (Welsh-speakers)


Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS)
New Barn Lane
GL52 3LZ
Tel: 0870 1122 211

Facts and Stats:

    60 per cent of people remember a good teacher, compared to 75 per cent who remember a bad teacher. Sting used to be a teacher (be still your beating hearts, girls). An actual answer from a GCSE question paper read: "The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn't have history. The Greeks also had myths, A myth is a female moth."

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