Career Guide

Teaching Assistant

Emily Hanson  · Jan 25th 2023

Do you enjoy working with children and love the idea of setting up core foundations they can take with them for life?

Teaching assistant working with children

Teaching assistants support the general running of a classroom at primary and secondary levels. Their work supports the work of a qualified teacher, but their focus is promoting pupil learning.

Teaching assistant apprenticeship

What is a teaching assistant?

Teaching assistants support teaching and learning within schools. Their work is key to children making progress in school and enjoying their learning.

In primary schools, teaching assistants will usually support one specific class of children throughout the year. They’ll help prepare lessons, as well as resourcing the learning environment, teaching small groups, and supporting behaviour management strategies. In some instances a special needs teaching assistant may work on a one-to-one basis with a particular child who has additional learning or medical needs and requires close support.

In secondary schools, a learning support assistant may work across multiple age groups and subjects. They may also work on a one to one basis with a young person who has additional needs, or work to support classes that have a high proportion of young people with social, emotional and behavioural challenges. A teaching assistant specialising in behaviour challenges is often called a pupil support assistant.


Your responsibilities as a teaching assistant will vary. They will depend on the age range you work in, the type of school you are part of, and the needs of your students.

You’ll usually need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C) including English and maths in order to apply.

Common duties include:

  • Helping set up the classroom environment, especially if you are an early years teaching assistant or nursery teaching assistant, such as setting up play activities, learning activities and outdoor play areas.
  • Preparing resources and learning materials, such as photocopying, laminating, and sticking in resource worksheets in class books.
  • Teaching individual or small groups of children after whole class inputs, such as teaching phonics or maths groups when children are split by ability.
  • Carrying out planning from teaching staff, such as small group work.
  • Managing behavioural challenges using the school behaviour policy and advice from the lead teacher.
  • Supporting children struggling with work, such as explaining or reiterating what has been taught in a whole class input.
  • Tracking progress of individual children, such as writing in reading records or marking small groups of children’s work.
  • Providing feedback to the class teacher on the impact of learning, such as sharing how a small group got on with an activity.
  • Conducting learning interventions with particular groups of children, such as speech and language support, additional phonics or reading sessions, or handwriting groups.
  • Potentially taking on full class responsibility when teachers are using their planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time.
  • Supporting individual children with their needs, such as additional learning help or potentially self care needs - this is most common with young children or when working as a one to one assistant.
  • Occasionally discussing any concerns with parents, especially if the class teacher is unavailable.


A teaching assistant salary is usually informed by the local government pay scale for public sector workers. This is different for each county in the UK - the closer to London you are, the higher you are likely to earn. Independent schools and academies may also differ in what they pay.

Salaries are also based on the qualification level of a teaching assistant. Initial teaching assistants at ‘level 1’ will usually receive around £18,333- £22,416. For level 2 teaching assistant jobs, you’re likely to earn £18,516- £22,599 and level 3 teaching jobs, the salary can increase to the higher end of £18,887- £23,004[1]. If you take on further qualifications and become a higher level teaching assistant (HLTA), you can expect to earn between £20,000 and £29,000, depending on location[2].

Sometimes schools hire teaching assistants on the basic teaching assistant salary, but offer additional hours at a HLTA wage. This will usually be when they cover classroom time or cover classrooms when a staff member is off, and take on additional responsibilities.

Graduate teaching assistant


Each school sets its own requirements for teaching assistant jobs. It’s worth doing your research in your local area to see what common expectations are.

You’ll usually need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C) including English and maths in order to apply. Common qualification requirements include Level 2 and 3 teaching assistant qualifications taught at college level. These include a Level 2 Support Work in Schools qualification and Level 3 Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools. If you want to eventually become a HLTA, you’ll need to complete one of the available HLTA qualifications at level 4 - though you will need to already be working in a school to apply.

You don’t usually need a degree to enter the teaching assistant profession. However, many graduates choose to start work as a teaching assistant after graduation to build up experience before applying for teacher training.

Some degrees that would align well with TA work include:

If you hope to work in secondary schools, it would also be helpful to hold a degree in your subject. This usually needs to be in a national curriculum subject, such as English, maths or science.

You will also need a full enhanced disclosure and barring service check (DBS). This is to prove you do not have any unspent criminal convictions.

Training and development

If you complete an initial qualification in teaching assistant work, this will help you understand how a school runs. You will also gain knowledge around the ways children learn, behaviour management and assessment. If you have a degree, this will also give you a good understanding of your subject area.

You will also learn a great deal on the job as a teaching assistant. Every teacher and class is different, so your skills, knowledge and abilities will adapt to the children you work with. This could include learning new behaviour management strategies, learning to deliver a new phonics programme or developing your understanding of assessments. You will usually also be required to undertake relevant safeguarding and prevent training on the job.

It’s a good idea to build up prior work experience in a classroom or nursery before applying to TA jobs.

Staff training days are common in schools, and you’ll be expected to attend. Training will often be delivered in areas a school wants to improve on, such as maths or English teaching, or encouraging healthy eating. These will usually involve a member of leadership teams, or an external trainer, delivering a keynote talk, followed by small group discussions where your team works out how to put your learnings into practice.

As you develop your practice, you could take on additional training if you haven’t already completed any. Some individuals take on HLTA training or further courses at Level 2 or 3. If you specialise in a particular area, such as supporting special educational needs children, you may also be expected to take on training to meet their needs. Many teaching assistants also take on paediatric first aid courses and become the key first aider in their age phase.


Your skills as a TA combine academic knowledge of your area with practical skills.

These include:

  • A calm, friendly demeanour to ensure children feel comfortable with you.
  • Excellent verbal communication skills - you’ll need to take directions from the class teacher while also giving them feedback on how any group sessions you were responsible for went.
  • Excellent written communication - you may mark small portions of work or be expected to write instructions.
  • A good knowledge of the national curriculum for your age phase, especially covering English and maths.
  • An awareness of key assessments children and young people are likely to come across, such as SATs, GCSEs and A Levels.
  • A good understanding of behaviour management strategies for managing a classroom.
  • An understanding of common special educational needs that children and young people could experience, and an awareness of how this might affect how they cope in a classroom setting.
  • Understanding of common approaches to teaching, such as group work, whole class inputs and one to one interventions.
  • Flexibility - plans often don’t work, so you’ll need to be able to think on your feet to come up with new approaches to deliver a topic or piece of information.
  • Creativity - this is especially true when helping to set up learning and play activities.
  • Ability to work independently in small groups.
  • Ability to work well within a wider team of teaching assistants, teachers and parents.
  • A good sense of humour!

Teacher assistant jobs

Work Experience

It’s a good idea to build up prior work experience in a classroom or nursery before applying to TA jobs. It’s worth getting a DBS check before this, as most schools will require any volunteers to have one in advance in order to work with children.

The most common way to do this is by reaching out directly to schools and asking to volunteer in a classroom setting. This could be on a regular basis or as a volunteering teaching assistant one off placement, and will help you understand the day to day runnings of a classroom. You could ask specifically to shadow a teaching assistant, and with enough voluntary experience, you might be given some responsibilities as a classroom assistant, like listening to children read or setting up small activities.

Career Prospects

As a teaching assistant you will learn a great deal on the job. With experience you could progress from a Level 2 to a Level 3 assistant, or eventually take a level 4 course and apply for higher level teaching assistant jobs.

Teaching assistants support teaching and learning within schools. Their work is key to children making progress in school and enjoying their learning.

You could specialise in a particular area of education, such as special educational needs. This could include becoming a specialist one to one TA.

If you are looking for further responsibilities for teaching and learning, you could train as a teacher. This would involve completing a one year postgraduate course (PGCE) if you already hold a degree. If you do not hold a degree, you will usually be required to study at undergraduate level first.


  • [1]Support staff pay — Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  • [2]Higher Level Teaching Assistant Salary — Retrieved 23 September 2022.

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