Working as a TA

Teaching assistants (TAs) are a very important part of a school environment. To find out more about what is expected of teaching assistants, read our frequently asked questions below.

Frequently asked questions

What do TAs do?

TAs support learning activities in schools and nurseries. They can work with individual pupils or with groups of children and support pupils across a range of abilities, as well as undertaking duties that free up a teacher’s time, such as preparing the classroom.

Some TAs will work exclusively with pupils with special educational needs (SEN) or with those with other specific needs. Supporting pupils with a range of learning and/or behavioural difficulties from a variety of backgrounds can be challenging but most find it extremely rewarding to watch the progress of the pupils that they work with.

TAs need to be flexible as they are often supporting a variety of areas on any given day and may be asked to cover areas of support at short notice. There is an expectation to get ‘stuck-in’ and provide help as and when needed.

The dress code for TAs is usually smart, depending on school policy, and the types of activities you are required to undertake. Much of their work will take place in the classroom, although they may be involved in lunchtime supervision, outdoor activities, or accompanying pupils on school trips.

What are TAs responsible for?

A TA’s duties will depend on their experience, training and TA status but they will generally need to:

  • deliver tailored teaching activities to pupils on either a one-to-one basis or in small groups
  • make sure that the pupils that they support are able to engage in learning and stay on task during the lesson or activity
  • support the social and emotional development of pupils, reporting any issues as necessary
  • manage challenging pupil behaviour
  • guide and monitor pupil progress
  • carry out administrative duties such as preparing classroom resources
  • provide support outside of their normal classes, such as helping during exams, covering TA absences or going on school trips
  • help with extracurricular activity such as breakfast and after-school clubs, homework club, revision sessions or lunch-time duties
  • co-ordinate specific areas of teaching support once they have the right level of experience

What do TAs get paid?

Starting salaries for TAs are between £11,000 and £15,000.

With increased responsibility, TAs can expect to earn between £15,000 and £21,000.

Higher-level TAs can earn between £21,000 and £25,000.

Your salary will vary depending on the role, responsibility and educational setting.

There isn’t a national pay scale to determine TA salaries. Most schools tend to go with wages set by the local education authority (LA). However, this will vary on the type of school. Unlike state-funded schools, independent, academy and free schools are not obligated to pay according to LA guidelines.

Some providers pay ‘term-time only’ wages, meaning your salary is pro-rata (a proportion of the stated full-time salary). You should still receive a salary every month.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

What are the working hours like for TAs?

Working hours are typically during the school day, in term time, Monday to Friday. TAs may be required to work early mornings or after school if they are supporting additional activities. In addition to their hours of work, they may need to attend training days or parents’ evenings, as appropriate to their role.

Some schools run activities over the summer that TAs can get involved in. This would usually be paid in addition to their normal salary.

In general, half-term and summer holidays are counted as part of a TA’s holiday allowance. Taking time off during term is usually restricted, and they will need a good reason for term-time absence to be authorised (e.g. moving home, wedding, funeral).

Employment contracts vary greatly in this profession. Part-time work or job sharing is common. While permanent contracts do exist, an increasing number of schools offer fixed-term or temporary contracts (e.g. one year), which are reviewed annually in line with school or pupil needs. These tend to be common when the majority of a TA’s role is supporting a particular pupil.

What qualifications do I need?

You do not need a degree to become a teaching assistant. For entry-level positions, you will need to have basic literacy and numeracy skills (GCSE or equivalent, National 4 and 5 in Scotland) and experience of working with children.

Nevertheless, having a degree, regardless of subject area, may put you at an advantage because it demonstrates a competent level of skills.

You could choose to gain a TA qualification from an approved awarding body, to enhance your chances of securing work. These are vocational or work-related qualifications ranging from GCSE level to degree level. Taking these courses will give you an insight into the role, some experience of working in schools and an understanding of child development.

Qualifications can be taken online or through a training provider, such as a local college. For those not yet working in the role, the most useful qualifications are ones that include some type of practical work placement.

It is important to note that teaching assistant qualifications for entry-level roles are not essential; work experience will go a long way in securing you a job.

What skills do TAs need to have?

TAs need to have:

  • a professional attitude to their work
  • a strong regard for pupil safety and well-being
  • a positive approach to working with children and the ability to motivate, inspire and build rapport
  • respect for diversity as they will be working with pupils from a range of backgrounds
  • excellent team working ability as they’ll be working with other support staff, classroom teachers and other professionals, such as educational psychologists, speech and language therapists and social workers, parents, carers and external agencies
  • good organisational skills and the ability to work flexibly
  • fluency in local community languages may be an advantage in roles supporting English as an additional language (EAL) pupils, although this is not essential
  • a willingness to keep up to date with educational policy and training related to their role

TAs will also be required to undergo a criminal record check through the Disclosure and Barring Service.

When recruiting, employers can specify a range of skills, experiences and qualifications, as there are no national standards for entry-level roles.

When you are applying for jobs you will need to pay close attention to the specific requirements of the role that is being advertised.

What work experience will be expected?

TA posts are highly competitive, and so experience of working with children is essential when securing a job. Experience may include working in:

  • childcare
  • educational settings
  • nurseries
  • sports activities
  • tutoring
  • youth work

While very few structured work experience schemes exist, many educational providers welcome inquiries for volunteer work. You should contact them directly, outlining your career ambitions, as well as areas you’d be interested in supporting, such as literacy, IT or after-school club.

Degree subjects with practical placements, like education, youth work and childhood studies, will probably count as experience, but if in doubt, it might be best to check with potential employers. If you don’t have opportunities like this as part of your degree, you could arrange to gain some experience either part-time over a specific period or full-time for a couple weeks.

There is a growing trend for universities to recruit for ‘student ambassador’ roles from their current undergraduates. This typically involves working part-time to promote higher education and/or a specific subject area, in local schools. Get in touch with your careers service for advice on volunteer or paid opportunities working with children and young people.

What opportunities for professional development are there?

Professional development is highly encouraged in this profession. It generally consists of a mixture of in-house and externally-led training courses.
Areas of training tend to align with the specific requirements of your role and can include:

  • working with pupils with specific learning difficulties or disabilities, e.g. dyslexia, autism, poor motor skills
  • English as an additional language (EAL) pupils
  • gifted and talented pupils
  • engaging students with emotional and behavioural difficulties
  • promoting inclusive learning environments for students
  • child protection policies and procedures

Take a look at the Cambridgeshire TA conference. Other opportunities in county can be found in the CPD section.

What are the different career options?

Entry-level roles within the profession are typically at teaching assistant level 1 or level 2. These levels demonstrate a particular set of skills, experiences and responsibilities, but do not necessarily have a specific qualification requirement.

With experience and training, TAs can move their way up to the highest status in the profession, level 5, and become a higher-level teaching assistant (HLTA), which does require a specific qualification. They must undertake specific training and assessment to qualify. HLTA status demonstrates that they meet a nationally-agreed set of standards in the field. This will lead to having increased responsibilities, such as delivering lessons unsupervised and co-ordinating activities in specialist areas of support or curriculum learning. You will need to have support from you school, as they usually cover the cost of the training.

Working as a TA is an excellent stepping-stone to becoming a teacher. It can provide you with a realistic and practical insight into the role of a teacher, without the responsibility of being one.

As a result, many move from working as a TA into applying to train as a teacher. This is actively encouraged in Cambridgeshire. Take a look at our routes into teaching to see how you could take this step. There are lots of choice whether you already have a degree or if you want to start.

What if I want to be a teacher but don’t have a degree yet?

This is a question we get asked a lot. In Cambridgeshire, there are a few options open to you if you are looking to become a primary school teacher:

Provider Part time/Full Time Course Title
Bedford University Both Applied Education Studies
Anglia Ruskin University Full Time Primary Studies
Open University Both Primary Education Studies

You can apply for a student loan to support you in completing a degree. Click here to find out how much.

Please note that after gaining your degree you will usually need to complete a teacher training programme. This typically takes a year to complete. Please refer to our teacher training routes page to find out more.

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