Every school, every classroom and indeed every pupil will have their own entry requirements for, and needs from a 'TA' or teaching assistant job in the UK. Individual schools are able to set their own entry requirements for teaching assistants depending on what they are needed for. Some may require you to have one of the following qualifications, Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools or a Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools, if you are seeking an immediate start in a paid position. Others could be willing to provide on the job support and training.
So the skills, attributes and qualities needed do vary from school to school. However, whilst the entry requirements, qualifications and level of experience do vary, there are some qualities which are needed across the board.
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Teaching Assistant Key Skills, Qualities and Attributes
Experience Working With Children
A school might require you to have previous experience in working with children. This could come in a variety of ways. This could be by having a qualification in nursery work, child care or youth work. Alternatively a great way to get relevant classroom experience is to volunteer within a local school for a few hours per week. Having experience in working with children demonstrates to schools you have the right personality and a commitment to the role. As such they may be more likely to take you on, even if you don’t have a direct qualification as a teaching assistant.
You will need to put this experience to good use in managing large and small groups of children as well as potentially disruptive pupils and be able to cater to those with special educational needs or with challenging behaviours. To do this you will need authority, rapport, patience and a sense of humour to engage different pupils in the appropriate way.
The Ability To Build Good Relationships with Children, Teachers, Parents and Carers
Teaching assistant jobs can feel like a mediator role between pupil, teacher and parent. TA’s work across these distinctions and as such you need to be able to quickly develop a report with all these key players. Children need to relate to and trust you in the classroom. Parents need to feel confident that you can meet their child’s educational needs and teachers need to trust you with pupils in and outside the classroom.
Understanding Of How Children Learn and Develop
There are endless and ever changing theories on how children learn and develop at different educational stages, whether this is through play when they are in early years education right through to the best way to teach pupils at secondary and A-Level education. In a teaching assistant job you do not need to know educational theory for every age group but do need a basic understanding of pupil learning and development theory at that stage.
Flexibility, Creativity, Passion and Energy
Teaching assistant jobs are dynamic roles. One moment you are working with a group, then supporting the classroom teacher in a wider lesson before working one-on-one with children who may have special educational needs. You’ll work in the classroom and out, assist with lesson planning, creative displays and in engaging the children. In short you need to be passionate about education, have the flexibility to do different roles and be creative in order to organise activities and create attractive displays and classrooms.
Teamwork and A Team Player
A school operates as a team and each classroom needs to be a well oiled machine within that wider team. Teaching assistant and teacher form a vital frontline educational team. You need to coordinate everything you are doing with the classroom teacher. Beyond this, teaching assistants may have to work closely with other stakeholders such as the school’s SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) and SEN (special educational needs) teachers, the head teacher, parents and outside agencies such as the social services.
Excellent Skills In Reading, Writing and Numeracy
It should go without saying that as a teaching assistant you need to have excellent skills in communication, reading aloud (with pupils), writing and numeracy. You are imparting these skills to the next generation and so need to be qualified to do so.
One of the best ways to find out what the schools in your area are looking for in potential teaching assistant jobs is to check job descriptions advertised by your LEA (or Local Education Authority) online. You can find your LEA here. Alternatively you can try contacting the school(s) you would like to work with.