Our guide to education assistant training

Our guide to education assistant training

First published date February 14 2014 Amended date February 06 2015

With the number of children being born in the UK on the up, there is greater demand from this ever-increasing population for sufficient school places for their children. The average size of a primary school has risen from 181 pupils in 1985 to 250 in 2013 in the UK with London having some of the largest. ‘Supersize’ primary schools are increasing and more schools are now taking on over 1,000 pupils! With swelling classrooms due to increasing birth rates and immigration, the need for more teachers and support is really evident. 


What does an education assistant do?

An education assistant (commonly known as a teaching assistant or TA) works very closely with pupils within a classroom in a primary, secondary or specialist school, but it’s in primary school where TAs are more abundant. While you may not take a lesson yourself, your job will be to help pupils who may be struggling and need extra help with what their teacher is showing them in lessons. You will also have to support the teacher with the day-to-day running of the classroom; this could involve anything from tidying or setting up the classroom to helping out on school trips or marking work. The work of a TA is essential these days with teachers having so much work to do and children to look after and the extra pair of hands you can provide will be most helpful, particularly when classrooms are getting busier!


Why should I be an education assistant?

Working as a TA is definitely not easy, but it is a very rewarding and fulfilling job, especially if you enjoy working with children.  The hours are fairly flexible and can be full or part time depending on what you’re looking for and the job can be a great stepping stone if you are looking to become a fully qualified teacher.


What will an education assistant training course involve?

Whether you’re completely new to it and want to gain your Level 1 or 2 (TA1/TA2) or if you’re more advanced looking to get your TA4 qualification, also known as Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs), then there will be a course suited to your experience and needs. At the beginners’ end of the spectrum, you will be shown the essentials and the basics of what is needed to be a TA. This will include learning the ins and outs of the classroom environment and how to protect the health and safety of the children as well as ways you will be supporting your class teacher. The more advanced courses like TA3 or TA4 will delve deeper into how you can nurture a child’s development both personally and educationally. With regards to working with your teacher, TAs qualified to Level 4 have much more input with activities like lesson planning as well actually taking supervise lessons.


Being a TA in London and training to become a teacher...

Eleanor Jeffery, a student currently on a PGCE course (post graduate certificate in education) in London, told us about her journey from volunteering and working as a TA, to now training to become a primary school teacher. Her story shows how vital it is to work as a TA as route to full time teaching...

‘I had worked in a lot of schools and observed various lessons and dealt with many different types of children. Over time I felt that I wanted more responsibility in terms of teaching children how to learn. That is when I knew that I should apply for a PGCE course and so I did. I think my experience as a TA has helped me to understand and learn everything about what goes towards making a happy learning environment and good lessons.’

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