I didn’t think I could work as a teaching assistant, then I read this!

Are you out of work or know someone who is? Getting frustrated with job rejections, or simply hearing nothing back from the companies you apply to? Whatever your background, teaching assistant work could be for you – find out below what makes a good TA and whether or not it could be a suitable job option for you.


Working with children can be a flexible and fulfilling job. Credit Flickr cc

What does a TA do?

The role of the teaching assistant can vary a lot from school to school. This is one of the reasons you could be suitable for this sort of work without even realising it. There are an awful lot of different types of schools out there, and the variety of students who require additional support is equally diverse (if not more so). It’s more about matching your skills, experience, interests and personality with a school/student(s). At Axcis, we have a vast amount of experience matching candidates to schools so can help with this. In the meantime, here is a list of typical duties that a TA might be expected to do:


  • Working one-to-one or with small groups of students – such as listening to children read, helping those who struggle to understand tasks get to grips with their work or supporting those for which English is not their first language (so if you speak their mother-tongue this can be extra-useful).
  • Supporting children with special needs or disabilities – this could be full or part-time, group or one-to-one support and could include a range of duties. For example, students with moderate learning needs might need you to explain the work to them in more detail. Children with more complex special needs might need you to assist with meal times and going to the toilet as well as class work.
  • Preparing the classroom for lessons and helping to keep it tidy – this could be anything from helping with display work, to photocopying worksheets or putting materials away at the end of the day.
  • Helping with school trips and events – this is an aspect of the role most people thoroughly enjoy. Although a school trip can mean a long day – it can also mean a fun outing to popular destinations such as museums, theme parks and farms.
  • Assessment and record-keeping – you may be expected to assist in assessing or maintaining records for the student(s) you work with. Most schools will provide training on what is required if you are expected to help with this.


What qualifications does a TA need?


There are no nationally specified requirements for becoming a teaching assistant. However, schools and local authorities may have their own requirements. Many colleges offer NVQ L2 or 3 courses in supporting teaching and learning. While these courses will further prepare you for working with students, they are not a legal requirement. At Axcis, we often find that it is more about basic skills, attitude and work ethic than it is about what credentials you can offer a school. For more profound special needs, sometimes specific training is required. For example, non-verbal students may need a teaching assistant who can sign or use a picture-based communication system so you’d obviously not be suited to these roles unless you could offer the specific skills required. But just as every child is different, so is every teaching assistant role. However, what is essential is that you have excellent written and spoken English skills and a good level of numeracy since these are key areas students usually require support in.


What are the benefits of TA work?

There are quite a few benefits to doing TA work – some of which are:


  • Working school hours – this has obvious benefits for any candidates who have children at school – child care bills can be expensive!
  • Flexible work – if doing TA work through an agency, you can pick and choose the days you are available for work.
  • Personal and professional development – many schools will offer you access to their staff CPD training, so you are likely to improve your practice in areas such as behaviour support, ICT, Literacy and Numeracy as well as being kept up to date with developments in education. On a personal level, TA work can be very rewarding and supporting children is a very enriching activity for many adults. There is nothing quite like seeing that “lightbulb” moment when a child grasps a concept you have been working on with them.
  • Competitive rates of pay – although this is dependent to some extent on the school you work in, the hourly rate for TAs is usually well above the national minimum wage. For an entry level position with the benefits outlined above, this sort of work is far preferable to many other entry level positions in other industries.
  • Career Progression – there are various avenues open to you when you are a TA. For example, you may want to become a senior (or Higher Level) Teaching Assistant. Or you might want to become a Learning Mentor or even a Teacher. Many schools will support you in undertaking further training and will often retain your services once you increase your qualification or skill level.


What does Axcis look for in a TA?


At Axcis, we are always on the lookout for candidates with experience in the classroom. However, this is not essential as we can provide support, advice and training. Other qualities we look for include:


  • Clear DBS check – while some schools will accept staff with convictions or cautions, you will increase your chances of finding work quickly if you have a criminal records check with no disclosures. Axcis can process a check for you so don’t worry about sorting one yourself if you don’t have one already.
  • A confident, positive outlook – “We love how grumpy your candidate looks all the time” is NOT something we ever hear from schools! As a rule, the schools we work with look for support staff with a positive, friendly attitude. This is because you need to be able to build rapport and trust quickly with the children you work with.
  • A can-do approach to your work – schools may take you by surprise and ask you to do things that you feel are outside your remit. But remember, you are a teaching assistant – you are there to assist so – within reason – always help out where you are needed. You can always call us at the end of the day to check if it’s appropriate for you to be doing any of the tasks you have been asked to do.
  • A basic understanding of working with children – while we can provide training, it is useful if you have SOME experience working with children. This could be anything from raising your own, to coaching the local football team or working with a club, charity or any other organisation where you have exposure to children.
  • Reliability – this should really have come higher up the list. Never underestimate the importance of being reliable. Being on time for work, and turning up regularly are ESSENTIAL. Remember, many children who need extra support need to know you will be there for them. Staff who regularly turn up late, or not at all can be very disruptive to the learning and development of the children they work with.


Surprising career changes


At Axcis, we are open minded when it comes to recruiting teaching assistant staff. We have helped people from a range of backgrounds to find work in schools, from police and sales professionals wanting a career change, to new graduates and care home workers who are looking for an opportunity to enter the education profession.


Is work available in my area?

With offices in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Wales, Manchester and Liverpool Axcis has offices which span the country. We work with all sorts of schools in many far-flung villages as well as city centres. So, if you are interested in seeing if you could be a teaching assistant for Axcis, why not fill in our simple online registration form and speak to your local consultant today?!


Take our quiz and find out if you’d be well suited to TA work

If you’re not sure whether you’d be suited to teaching assistant work or not, why not take our short quiz? Simply answer these 10 questions – it only takes a few minutes!

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