Raising the standard – the role of a teaching assistant

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Raising standards of education and training has been a priority for successive UK governments since the Second World War, and it’s one of the few areas in which all political parties can find some level of agreement. Despite limited resources, it must be said that considerable progress has been made in achieving this aim.

Quality of teaching will be central to improving standards, but teachers no longer work alone. Today, they are supported by classroom assistants (sometimes called ‘learning assistants’ or ‘learning mentors’). Classroom assistants work throughout the nursery, primary, and secondary education sectors. The role of an assistant varies significantly from sector to sector, and even within the same school or the same classroom! Flexibility is essential, but the potential level of job satisfaction generated from knowing you are contributing to the preparation of a future generation of young people should not be understated.

Responsibilities may include one-to-one work with individual students, listening to children read, working with small groups, or supporting a child with special educational needs. But being an extra presence in the classroom, with the ability to lend a hand where needed is equally important. Classroom assistant roles may be particularly compatible with an individual’s own childcare responsibilities as hours of work will normally match those of the school day and year, and part-time as well as full-time posts are available.

A good level of education is required (though not a degree) and salaries range between £11,000 and £21,000 per year, depending on level of responsibility. However, note that actual salary may be less as many classroom assistant posts are unpaid during the holidays. Candidates are also required to undergo a full criminal record check.

Classroom assistant posts are advertised in a variety of media, and individual schools will often place their own adverts on their websites, on social media, or in local papers. However, the biggest range of job opportunities may well be offered through agencies who can pull together jobs from across the region, or even the whole UK. Specialists such as ITN Mark Education therefore have the capacity to offer the widest available range of teaching assistant jobs across the country.

Another advantage of registering with an accredited agency is that you have access to experienced staff who can advise on any aspect of preparation or development which may help you to land that dream role. The agency may also be able to suggest routes to further qualifications or in-service training that can increase the job opportunities available to you.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a classroom assistant, or the options available to more experienced colleagues, you will find an excellent outline on the Prospects website. Alternatively, try the useful summary from the National Careers Service.


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