Interested in becoming a Teaching Assistant? Whether you’re passionate about supporting students in the classroom or want to gain experience before jumping into teaching, becoming a TA is an exciting opportunity. However, it can be confusing when it comes to the qualifications required to get you there. Read on to find out what qualifications you need to become a teaching assistant…
What qualifications do you need to become a Teaching Assistant?
For entry-level Teaching Assistant positions, you’ll need to have basic literacy and numeracy skills, usually GCSE or equivalent (National 4 or 5 qualifications in Scotland) in Maths and English, and experience of working with children.
Although you don’t need a degree to become a teaching assistant, having one can be an advantage as this shows a competent level of skills. Qualifications and experience in related areas such as childcare, nursery, play or youth work can also be useful.
Although not essential, the following qualifications can provide a useful introduction to the sector and an understanding of the knowledge and skills you need to work with children or young people in primary, secondary or special schools:
Level 1 Award in Preparing to Work in Schools
This qualification prepares learners for further learning and training whilst developing an understanding of the teaching and learning environment in a school setting. It covers areas such as how to support the well-being of a child or young person and child and young person development. This is a knowledge-only qualification. Learners do not need to be working or undertaking practical placements to take this qualification.
Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools
This qualification is an introduction to the knowledge and understanding needed to work in a school or college environment. It can apply to the many varied roles that full and part-time support staff may fulfil including: administrative roles, site support roles, technical roles and volunteers, as well as roles that work directly with children and young people in the learning environment. All units will be internally assessed using a range of methods, which could include written assignments or tasks such as designing a leaflet or booklet, charts or diagrams, or setting up an information board.
Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
This course is designed to give the knowledge required to work in a school or college with children from 5 to 18 years of age. The course covers a variety of different areas such as development, the schooling system and working with individuals in various capacities. To gain the full Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning course (QCF) you will need to pass 4 assignments. There are no formal examinations on this course and the certification fee is included in the course fees.
You can take these without working in an education setting. For some Level 2 and 3 courses, however, you’ll need to be working or on a practical placement in an education setting (either paid or voluntary).
It’s also possible to train to be a teaching assistant through taking an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship (Levels 2 and 3). You’ll work in a school during your training and will be paid a salary.
It is possible to become a teaching assistant after graduating from your degree through our i-teachers ‘Step into Teaching’ programme – read more about this further on in our blog!
Individual schools set their own entry requirements for jobs, so check vacancies carefully to find out what skills, experiences and teaching assistant qualifications they’re looking for.You’ll also need to undergo an enhanced criminal records check through the Disclosure and Barring Service or Disclosure Scotland.
What skills do I need to be a Teaching Assistant?
Whether you have a degree, TA qualification or TA experience – it is the relevant skills that you hold which are likely to determine your success as a Teaching Assistant. Alongside your knowledge, this is what shapes you as a TA:
- A positive approach to working with children and the ability to motivate, inspire and build rapport
- A strong regard for pupil safety and well-being
- Respect for diversity
- Communication and interpersonal skills to build relationships with pupils, parents, teachers and governors
- Reading, writing and numeracy skills
- Excellent team working skills for working with other support staff, classroom teachers and professionals such as educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, social workers etc.
- A flexible approach to work
- A professional attitude to work
- Organisational skills
Teaching assistant posts are highly competitive, so it is extremely helpful to have some relevant work experience. Experience may include working in:
- Educational settings
- Sports activities/groups
- Summer camps
- Youth work
Whilst very few structured work experience schemes exist, many schools welcome queries for volunteer work. Contact them directly, outlining your career ambitions, as well as areas you’d be interested in supporting, such as literacy, IT or after school clubs.
Degrees with practical placements, such as education, youth work and childhood studies, will likely count as experience, but check with employers if you’re in doubt. If you don’t have opportunities like this as part of your degree, you could arrange to gain some part or full time work experience.
How i-teachers can help you to become a Teaching Assistant
At i-teachers, we specialise in placing talented graduates in classroom support roles as part of our Step into Teaching programme.
Our experienced education consultants will place you in a paid teaching assistant position that is perfectly suited to your skill set, in a school that suits your personality. We believe that practical experience is invaluable and learning from teaching experts is key. On your ‘step into teaching’ programme you will get to experience the life of a teacher or teaching assistant, and truly impact the lives of pupils, whilst in a fully supportive environment. It is fantastic work experience both for your own personal development as well as for your CV, and you can earn whilst you learn!