How to become a teaching assistant: Stacey's story

Meet Stacey, 25, from Banbury. Find out what life is like as a teaching assistant. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

"Working with children is challenging, but it is a job that you go home and think, 'I made a difference today.'"

What is your job?

I work with children from 5-11 years old, helping them in the classroom. Every day is a challenge. I don't know what I will be doing each day and that makes it exciting. The best thing is making a difference to children’s lives - it's wonderful.

In the morning I talk to the teacher about what we are doing. I prepare materials that the teacher needs. I promote children’s independence and help them to take control of their own learning.

Do you use any soft skills in your job?

Patience and timekeeping are really important. I need to be a a good listener too – primary school children like to express how they are feeling and it’s important that they know you are listening. Working in a team is also very important. You have to talk to teachers, head teachers and other professionals like speech and language therapists.

What subjects do you use everyday?

I use English and Mathematics. Drama has given me confidence – being able to project my voice and having a good posture has helped me in the classroom.

What was your pathway to your career?

At school I studied Health and Social Care. I then went to college and studied Childcare and Education, which I enjoyed. I then went and worked in a nursery for a little while. From there, I went and worked in a secondary school which boosted my confidence and professionalism. I always wanted to work in a primary school. I decided to apply for this job and I was successful.

Stacey helps children with their reading.

Top tips

  • Know you want to work with children, but not sure exactly what kind of work? There are some great courses which will help you decide as well as developing your skills
  • Go for it and believe in yourself.

What to expect if you want to be a teaching assistant

  • Teaching assistant average salary: £11,500 to £23,000 per year
  • Teaching assistant typical working hours: Variable ranging from 32 to 40 hours per week

What qualifications do you need to be a teaching assistant?

  • Typical entry requirements:

    • College: You can take a qualification like a Level 2 or 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools, a Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education, or a T level in Education and Childcare. You'll usually need two or more GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a Level 2 course, four or five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a Level 3 course, and four or five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) including English and Maths for a T level
    • Apprenticeship: You can also get into this role through a teaching assistant advanced apprenticeship. You'll usually need five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), usually including English and Maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
    • Applying directly: You can apply directly for jobs through schools, local authorities and academy trusts. You'll usually need GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English and Maths and to show that you can work well with children, teachers and parents.
  • Career progression: With experience, you may take a course to become a higher level teaching assistant (HLTA). With further study you could become a fully qualified teacher.

This information is a guide and is constantly changing. Please check the National Careers Service website for the latest information and all the qualifications needed. (Sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service).

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: National Careers service (England), nidirect (Northern Ireland), My World of Work (Scotland) and Careers Wales (Wales).

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