Teaching Assistant with a pupil

How to be a successful Teaching Assistant

Becoming a Teaching Assistant (TA) can be a good introduction to working in a classroom and many Teachers have used this as a springboard to launch their educational careers. However, being a TA is an important job as TAs are a crucial part of the school team.

Importance of a Teaching Assistant

As a TA, you can find yourself working in a variety of Primary School or Secondary School settings. This could either be in a mainstream school, or in a Special School where you would be assisting children who have Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

A TA is an extremely important part of the education system, providing support to the class Teacher. This can be assisting with the management of the children and class activities, but can also include classroom and material preparation, cleaning up after lessons and helping with administrative tasks. A TA will often find themselves working with small groups on a specific task such as reading, maths or project work and they may work with individual SEND pupils who need extra help. You can find out more about the job of a Teaching Assistant here.

A good TA is not only an invaluable support to the Teacher, enabling them to focus on their main task of teaching the class, but they also play a key role in the educational development of the children. In Primary Schools, pupils spend a good proportion of their time with a TA.

Key attributes of a good Teaching Assistant

No two days are the same for a TA. This is a job for someone who thrives on variety and can rise to a challenge. Being a strong, calm presence in the classroom is necessary to ensure you give the level of assistance needed by both the Teacher and the pupils.

To be successful in this role, a TA should have the following attributes:

Motivation – Having a positive approach in everything you do will help create the right environment for everyone in the classroom. Being motivated will help you inspire the pupils, encouraging them each day to learn new things.

Communication – Good communication skills are essential when working with children and will help you build good relationships. You must be able to explain tasks and expectations in a way they understand. You also need to listen so that you recognise their needs and how best you can help them.

Team Working – As a TA you need to work well with the class Teacher so you can provide the support they need. You may not always be with the same class so you need to be able to work with other support staff and Teachers to give whatever help is needed. This could be in the classroom, with small groups, one-to-one assistance, or helping on a school trip.

Adaptability – The variety of things you might be asked to do means you need to be willing and able to adapt quickly and easily. You could be doing reading practice in the morning, then out to forest school in the afternoon, perhaps with classroom clean up and admin tasks in between. A good TA needs to have a flexible approach to their daily work. 

Patience – This is a necessity for anyone working in a school setting and TAs are no exception. Working in a busy classroom with children of varying abilities and levels of excitement can sometimes be a challenge. To be successful it is important to be patient and stay calm whatever the situation.

Organisation – Given the variety of the job, it is essential for a TA to be organised in their approach to work. This will help with staying on top of the various tasks you are required to do and having materials prepared and organised ahead of time enable you to focus on working with the pupils during class time.

Creativity – Having a creative eye is an advantage as TAs are often called upon to make displays and prepare materials for class activities. You could come up with new ideas on how to do things and inspire pupils in their own work.

How is the success of a Teaching Assistant measured?

The Professional standards for Teaching Assistants were originally drafted by the Department for Education (DfE), but they chose not to publish them. Instead, a group of educational organisations, who understood the value of having standards in place, were granted permission to publish them in 2016.

TAs are an integral part of the educational team and should be recognised as such. Having standards means individual schools can ensure consistency in the skills and expertise of their TAs and, in the relationship between TAs and other teaching staff. Although the standards are non-mandatory and non-statutory, they are designed to be used alongside those set for Teachers, so that schools can maximise the contribution TAs make to the education provided for their pupils.

The four main areas of the standards cover personal and professional conduct, knowledge and understanding, teaching and learning, and working with others. Each of these areas cover expectations for anyone working as a TA and can be used by the TA for self-evaluation, and also by Teachers and Line Managers as part of their appraisals.

The full Professional standards for Teaching Assistants can be read here.

Continuing professional development (CPD) for Teaching Assistants

As a TA it is not necessary to have a teaching qualification but continuing professional development is extremely important for anyone in the field of education, so they can improve and develop their knowledge and skills as they progress in their career.

Once employed as a TA you are likely to have many opportunities for ongoing training either in the school through mentoring, lesson observations and team teaching, or externally on training courses, workshops or at conferences. Training could be in a specific area such as safeguarding, working with pupils with learning difficulties or supporting children for whom English is a second language. Or you could complete qualifications in supporting teaching and learning. When you are an experienced TA, you could consider becoming a Higher-Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA), which means more responsibilities and opportunities to take on planning, preparing and delivering lessons.

In the world of education there is always more to learn. By increasing your own knowledge, as a TA you can provide the best support possible for both pupils and Teachers.   

5 Top Tips for being a successful Teaching Assistant

  • Be organised so you are prepared for anything.
  • Be motivated so you can inspire pupils to try their best.
  • Be patient so you can deal with any situation.
  • Be adaptable so you are ready and able to do whatever is needed.
  • Be a good team player so you can help and assist wherever needed.

Where next?  

To find the latest opportunities for Teaching Assistants in primary schools, search here.

For Teaching Assistant jobs in secondary schools search here.

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