Moving to the UK and Working as a Teaching Assistant

If you are interested in working in a school, either primary or secondary but don’t have the qualifications or experience to be a teacher then being a teaching assistant could be a great option for you. This article has been written by Mrs M Milne (Retired Teacher - Deputy Head)

.....However if you don’t like children, aren’t very patient or organised then this is not the job for you!

What is a teaching assistant?

A teaching assistant (TA) also known as learning support assistant (LSA) is an adult who supports teachers in the classroom. Teaching assistants comprise over a quarter of the workforce in mainstream primary and secondary schools in England and their duties can vary widely from school to school, ranging from providing administrative and classroom support to providing targeted academic support to individual pupils or small groups. More about this later.

With the drive to include pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in mainstream schools, the need for TAs has been essential in helping to support the classroom teacher with a diverse range of needs of their pupils. TAs add value to what teachers do and can help pupils develop independent learning skills and manage their own learning. You can work with individual pupils, groups of children or, on occasion, a whole class. You'll be supporting pupils from a variety of backgrounds, who may have a range of learning and/or behavioural difficulties, the work can be challenging, but watching the progress of the pupils that you work with can also be extremely rewarding.

What sort of activities will I be involved in?

As said earlier this will vary from school to school and also depend on whether you are a TA in a primary or secondary school. It will also depend on what your interests/skills set are but to give you some idea I have listed the most common duties:

  • Under the direction of the teacher you can be asked to deliver an activity on a one-to-one basis or in small groups
  • Support the pupils you are working with to make sure they are engaged in their learning and concentrate throughout the lesson
  • Work with the teacher to manage pupil behaviour, promoting positive behaviour and reporting back to the teacher and poor behaviour
  • Listen to pupils read and read to pupils as a class, group or one-to-one
  • You can be asked to help the teacher carry out assessments of pupil progress
  • If you have a particular interest or strength then you may be asked to help with the planning of some lessons
  • Provide detailed and regular feedback to teachers on pupils' progress
  • Carry out administrative duties, such as preparing classroom resources
  • Create displays of pupils' work
  • Provide support outside of your normal classes, such as helping during exams, helping with extracurricular activity such as breakfast and after-school clubs, homework club, revision sessions, lunchtime duties or going on school trips.

Do I need any qualifications?

There are four grades of teaching assistant, ranging from entry level to higher level teaching assistant (HLTA) and which will depend on your experience and appropriate qualifications and training.

A Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) has more responsibility. This can include:

  • working alongside teachers to support learning activities
  • helping to plan lessons and prepare teaching materials
  • acting as a specialist assistant for particular subjects
  • leading classes under the direction of the teacher
  • supervising other support staff

For entry-level positions, you'll need to have basic literacy and numeracy skills (GCSE or equivalent) and ideally some experience of working with children.

Although you don't need a degree to become a teaching assistant, having a degree can be an advantage as it shows a competent level of skills. Qualifications in related areas such as childcare, nursery, play or youth work can also be useful.

It's also possible to train to be a teaching assistant through taking teaching assistant courses or an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship. To find out more information use this link

Individual schools set their own entry requirements for teaching assistant jobs. If you are joining BritBound to help organise ateaching assistant role then they will be able to advise you what skills, experiences and qualifications you'll need.

In addition the school will need to carry out an enhanced DBS check.

What is a DBS check?

A DBS check is a record of a person’s criminal convictions and cautions – carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

It’s an essential requirement for those applying to work with children or vulnerable adults (e.g. in teaching or healthcare) – and the information shown is used to ascertain your suitability for this role.

The school will need to carry out a DBS check on you before you are allowed to work there however you need to bring the following documents with you to help them with their check:

Do I need to have any experience of working with children?

Teaching assistant posts can vary, but it would be advantageous to have some relevant work experience. Experience may include working in:

  • Looking after children
  • Previous experience in an educational settings
  • Working in children’s nurseries
  • Running or coaching sports activities
  • Tutoring children
  • Youth work.

What salary will I get?

Starting salaries for full-time, permanent TAs (level 1) are around £15,000. With increased responsibility (levels 2 and 3), you can expect to earn between £15,000 and £21,000. Higher-level TAs can earn between £21,000 and £25,000. You may earn more for additional specialisms or SEND responsibilities.

Your salary will vary depending on your role, responsibilities and educational setting. Many TAs are employed on part-time or term-time only contracts, so take-home pay can be less.

How do I know if I am suitable?

As I said at the start of this article the most important requisite is to like children, that said, you will also need to have:

  • A strong regard for pupil safety and well-being. This is essential and you should know and understand about safeguarding children in school. This link is really useful
  • Respect diversity, as you'll be working with pupils from a range of backgrounds
  • A professional attitude to work and a positive approach to working with children and the ability to motivate, inspire and build rapport
  • Interpersonal skills to build relationships with pupils, parents, teachers and governors
  • A flexible approach to work, as you'll be involved in a range of school-related activities such as cooking, art and science projects
  • Reading, writing, numeracy and communication skills
  • Team working skills as you'll be working with other support staff, classroom teachers and other professionals.

How can I find a Teaching Assistant Job

BritBound can assist you with this as part of our The London Job One Membership Package. We will guarantee to get you working within 14 days of arrival (or following any required training). To get started head to our