1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Thinking of a career as a Teaching Assistant - any input gratefully received!

Discussion in 'Teaching assistants' started by someboyman, Sep 22, 2016.

  1. someboyman

    someboyman New commenter


    I am currently looking in to retraining to enable me to work as a Teaching Assistant. Really I am looking for any input or advice from people working in this role which may help me decide a) if this is the right thing for me b) what the best route to becoming a TA would be. I will provide a little background on myself for context.

    Im a 35 y/o male. I have no teaching or classroom experience. Teaching is something that always appealed to me but for a variety of reasons not something I have done. I would ideally like to work in primary education. I have a biology degree and a post graduate diploma in law and currently work as a solicitor. It pays relatively well but the role is soul crushingly vacuous and unrewarding. The prospect of doing something more rewarding, varied and enjoyable appears, as does term time work having a daughter who has just started school.

    So really what I was hoping for from any of you good people who work in schools/as TA would be feedback on:

    1. Whether this is job you enjoy/would recommend/would go in to now with the benefit of hindsight?

    2. What the best route in to a TA role is (I'm reading about the various ways to do this but wonder which is deemed best in terms of securing work/receiving the best training/experience) - ideally I would like to continue working while I train so I am not without income for too long

    3. If later down the line I felt I wanted to change roles to a teacher (this is not my intention but I just wondered) - would having worked as a TA help with this or not (I would imagine it would but you never know)

    I am sorry that this post (my first) is so wordy - a vocational affliction - but would be enormously grateful for any input people could give. I am genuinely excited about the prospect of doing this but it would be a big step and the more info and points of view I can get to guide me the better.

    Thank you.

  2. someboyman

    someboyman New commenter

    I should also add - any idea as too how likely I am to be able to secure work if I go for this would be appreciated. I live close to Newcastle city center so there are lots of schools round here but I know nothing about the job market for TA's and reading things here it sounds as though a lot of teachers become TA's and I doubt I would stand a chance if I was up against qualified teachers!

  3. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Working as a TA will give you a lot of insight into whether or not teaching is something you would want to do in the future. Working as a TA, however, does not involve the same workload as a teacher and some teachers report working 60+ hours per week, so teaching is not the family friendly career the public perceive it to be. Many teachers leave teaching after the first three years of qualifying. Just as in a law office, the work can be hard and grueling in terms of the amount of work you have to do.

    As for becoming a TA, just apply for any jobs you see advertised. Do you have any experience of working with young children?
  4. someboyman

    someboyman New commenter

    Hi - thank you for this Pepper.

    Teaching was always something I was interested in but I have heard a number of horror stories about the pressure on teachers and the amount of admin - especially when starting out - and whilst I am not afraid of hard work (especially if it's in pursuit of something rewarding) given the age of my daughter (4) I don't think retraining as a teacher is something I want to do in the near future.

    I thought a TA role would still allow me to work doing something rewarding and would be better suited to the work/family balance I am looking for. At the same time hopefully it would provide experience and insight in to teaching so I could see first hand whether this is something I would like to try and do when my daughter is older.

    Re experience - nothing of any significance. I would be happy to volunteer but most things I have seen are during office hours and I work full time. The more I read it seems that this is more essential than qualifications. Im not sure if there are other avenues I could explore to get relevant experience out side of the 9-5.
  5. Wotton

    Wotton Lead commenter

    Well if you love kids and are prepared to work for low pay I'd suggest trying to get some volunteering experience. For qualifications I think it is essential that you can find time to work in a school and train through a local college. some courses are at night so that may be easier but you would still have to find time to gain experience in a school.
    Different schools have different expectations of their TAs. We work from 8.30 to 4pm in my school and work during lunch times only having a 20 min lunch.
    You will work supporting children during whole class teaching, take intervention groups and you may have to photocopy and laminate.We attend staff meetings every week and inset days.
    palmtree100 and pepper5 like this.
  6. Trekkie

    Trekkie Occasional commenter

    Good advice from @Wotton.
    Do bear in mind that some Primary TAs only work 25 hours pw (9.00-12.00 and 1.00-3.00) which will have an impact on your pro-rata salary.
  7. someboyman

    someboyman New commenter

    Thank you all very much for your input - some food for thought. The pro rata salary could work out much lower than it appears in job adverts - its good to know that when trying to make a decision. I am very conflicted. I think it would be a good thing for me in terms of a job I enjoy more and freeing up time in the school holidays to spend with my daughter when she's young. But sadly I am not wealthy and depressingly money does have to be a consideration.

    I will look in to volunteer work and courses as suggested and then give it some more thought.

    Is there a particular time of year when you are more likely to secure voluntary work or work as a qualified TA - Im thinking for the start of the school year but I wasnt sure.
  8. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    There was a doctor on here a few weeks ago thinking of becoming a teacher and she contacted her child's primary school to get some classroom experience as a volunteer. The school was most helpful and responded favourably.

    Is your daughter in Reception? If so, perhaps her school would be willing to let you gain some experience in their school. As a graduate and solicitor, you will probably get a positive response. If you are working though, it might be difficult to arrange time in a schools as a volunteer. Maybe you could work out something.
  9. snugglepot

    snugglepot Occasional commenter

    Yes, don't do it!

    Only joking I love my job...maybe not on a Friday afternoon.
    1.Yes, it is an interesting, challenging and caring job .
    The pay isn't great because we are no longer paid a retainer fee and therefore it is not the pay that appears in ads. Check it out first. It varies from county to county. I probably would do it all again though at times I think there must be something easier. However I work in a school which has some challenging little characters which wear me out.
    2. I agree look for a local college course unfortunately you have probably missed the boat for this year. Cache courses are good. Some courses are not good and there are various awards etc so check on a site like this first.
    3. Lots of TAs have gone on to be HLTAs or teachers. Yes, it can definitely help your application and there are several routes in. I personally know people who have done this and have been pleased they had. I didn't due to commitments and I regret it.
    I think you should weigh it all up especially the pay before taking the plunge.
    someboyman and pepper5 like this.
  10. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter


    Lots of excellent advice given so far. Having worked in schools for more than 25 years - as a nursery assistant, TA and, for several years now, as an HTLA, I have a fair bit of experience. Without a doubt, it is a very rewarding role; there is great job satisfaction as you see children progress and know that you have contributed towards their development. It also works well for people with a young family - school holidays are generally yours. But it is a tough job; you are busy every minute of the day and still never get everything done. The biggest downside for you may be the salary; although it varies in different parts of the country, it's never going to support a family, mortgage, etc.

    If you do decide to go for it, I would apply for any TA jobs you see. Some schools do only employ those with an NVQ or equivalent (your local FE college should have details of courses in your area) but, with a degree, it's definitely worth you applying. If you did get a job and both the school and yourself were happy, a year or so down the line, you would then be in a very strong position to apply for something like the Schools Direct programme at the school you work at. This is a one year school based training (for graduates) which will give you QTS. There are always ways forward!

    We all have bad days (weeks? terms?) but I can honestly say that if I was starting out again, I would still want to do this job!
    someboyman and pepper5 like this.
  11. someboyman

    someboyman New commenter

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    After my initial positivity I had got a bit down heartened on the idea over the weekend but reading these last two posts last night have really spurred me on. Both are very encouraging without sounding one sided and with some great advice.

    The money is an issue of course but I think being able to go to work without a cloud of gloom hanging over me would be worth the sacrifices. Second to sleeping you probably spend more time working than anything else, and at the moment it just feels like wasted time. that there is scope to progress and earn more money if necessary is reassuring.

    I will look in to volunteering/course and vacancies as has been suggested. If it takes a while, even until the next school year then so be it. I will just have to get saving in the meantime!

    Thanks again.
  12. MiddyRed68

    MiddyRed68 New commenter

    Go for it ! I'm a HLTA at a Pupil Referral Unit. I was in my 40's and career changed. Initially i started a PGCE but realised that it wasn't for me and after some time working as an unqualified teacher in an academy found my ideal job working with some really challenging kids but ultmately very rewarding - if not financially so :) I would recommend TA to anybody who is thinking of teaching, but ultimately it's a great job in itself. Good luck.
    someboyman, palmtree100 and pepper5 like this.
  13. -Ackbar-

    -Ackbar- New commenter

    Hey Steven,

    1. Being a male myself (though my avatar says otherwise...), I can sympathise that there is some stigma around being a TA - this is something that you will come to accept within the role. Even before I got my first job and was training,
    people were baffled what I wanted to be one. I am in my late-twenties and have a degree, yet the idea of going down this avenue seemed alien. Only my parents and a few close friends took my decision seriously. Some didn't know what a TA was.

    Within my first three months of being a Level 3, I was asked by several members of staff why I even considered this role. Some assume I will go on to be a full classroom teacher, others think it's just temporary, but I've gotten used to regular enquiries. Only yesterday, my Deputy Head' said in a conversation "You can save these [resources] for when you have your own class", despite knowing that I'm happy being a TA!

    The important thing is that within a primary setting especially, children will do absolutely anything for you. You are not much older than myself - a young guy can offer a completely different experience to other members of staff, who are usually older and female. Point in case; I am the only male TA in my setting, and only one of the classroom teachers is male. This is to your advantage. You're the young, cool dude and children want to respect you. Gain mutual respect, and when you ask for silence, boy will you get it.

    The male-female ratio was a shock at first coming from a very evenly spread work environment, and it has its good and bad points. The good is that the teachers look after you in a very warm way; some even treat you like a son! (One male teacher at my setting, who is in his late-thirties, will often get a round of petting during breaks). The bad is that you have to listen to, in excruciating detail, the exact reason why Poldark is the definition of man. Whilst eating your sandwiches.

    It's a lot to take in and I don't say any of this to shed a negative light on the role or to put you off, but just to give you another angle.

    2. You have a degree - great. In itself this means a lot because you have a vast range of experiences to tap into, and you will have good standards in the core subjects. I can only speak from my route, which was to avoid a PGCE like the plague and go for a NCFE Level 3 TA award. I completed this with De Montfort College in around 3 months, passed, and had no trouble getting a job. In fact, my Head said to me during the interview "So you've done a degree. You don't really need a TA qualification then, do you?".

    Now, don't think that you don't need a TA qualification. There is more demand than ever, and so having that little extra work strapped on to your degree can make a big difference. It gives you a vital understanding for how schools operate in and out of the community, how agencies work and much, much more. Think of it as the introduction. Everything else, you're going to learn on the job.

    If you do decide to take this route, search for an accredited course. Distance learning will allow you to study in your own time, and submissions/communications are handled over email. Your reading materials etc are posted to you. Courses like this are so well organised and such good value that, even if you decide being a TA isn't for you, then you've learned a lot and it's just another string for your bow.

    The big point to make here, and I can't stress this enough, is to gain a placement. I know this may be awkward with your work, but it will pay off big time. Having that foot in a door may or may not land you priority for a job vacancy, but at the very least you will have a new reference, experience, and something else to add to your CV.

    3. Absolutely. A PGCE is ideal if you want to jump straight into teaching, but should you wish to be a TA first, there are opportunities to have further training that will prepare you for life as a teacher. The school will first agree to this; it might be that they see potential, and both parties agree that stepping-up is that right step. I'm not sure what the costs involved are, but I know in my setting that others have had their training paid for them. They just travel somewhere a couple of days a week to train, and that's it.

    Anyway, good luck with it all and keep in touch!
    someboyman, palmtree100 and pepper5 like this.
  14. dianef2303

    dianef2303 New commenter

    I work in a high school as a cover supervisor having worked in primary education as a TA for several years. I then left to pursue a career with the civil service - which I gave up after 10 years as being too much to manage even though the wages were fantastic - work life balance came to mean more to be than the money.
    Is being a cover supervisor something you have thought about? I have a varied role never knowing what I am coming into each day. I cover everything on the curriculum from art to technology to english to pe. The students are aged 11 to 16 and whilst most are okay there are certainly some challenges. Again the pay is not great but school holidays are just that - school holidays - as I have no planning or marking to do. I have worked with a couple of men in their 20's who did cover for a couple of years and they (and the students) thoroughly enjoyed it.
    someboyman likes this.
  15. someboyman

    someboyman New commenter

    Thank you for the further replies and useful additional information and views.

    Ackbar - your story is somewhat encouraging although it has been some time since I truly felt like a "cool dude" I understand the point you're making.

    I was very interested in what you said about the De Montfort College course as the general view seemed to be to stay away from online/distance learning courses - but if possible this would be preferable for me as I could continue to work whilst doing it (or that is my understanding anyway).

    The main point everyone seems to make is the importance of experience and a placement. Unless I leave work I would be limited in terms of how long I could do a placement to what holiday I can take for work. I dont mind sacrificing some holiday for the future of my career but given I only get 4 weeks in total and I would want at least some time off with my family it would be limited. How much experience did you manage to get before you applied for jobs and how did you go about getting it? Is there a particular time of year Im more likely to be successful if I am approaching local schools looking for a placement?

  16. -Ackbar-

    -Ackbar- New commenter

    I was volunteering for about five months before a vacancy was available, and that stood me in good stead. Many vacancies will also internal, meaning that they are not advertised outside of the school, so this is another good reason to build a good rapport with staff/pupils through experience.
  17. chocolateworshipper

    chocolateworshipper Occasional commenter

    You absolutely need to ensure that you understand the rate of pay. It is hard to work out because the amounts quoted in the job adverts tend to be full time equivalents, but once you account for working short days and term time only, the actual pay is unbelievably rubbish. To give you an idea - I get around £700 a month for 4 days a week, and I am on one of the highest rates. There are lots of positives about being a TA, but the salary is not one of them.
  18. -Ackbar-

    -Ackbar- New commenter

    Thanks for you input, it seems to be a recurring theme. I'm applying for a TA 3 role that is advertised as having a pay band of between £20,500 and £21,500 which almost seems to good to be true. As I understand it based on those figures alone, you would be looking at around £16,500 after normal deductions, but it's disheartening to think that the pay band isn't always accurate. It could of course depend on the council in question.
    123Vanilla likes this.
  19. Wotton

    Wotton Lead commenter

    The advertised rate is for full time and as TAs are never full time because of the holidays and only being paid term time the pay is so much lower. You need to ask what the actual pay is to be able to budget.
  20. stonerose

    stonerose Occasional commenter

    1 step
    Approach a local school (my advice is to pick one that might not give you a rosy picture of this job so you know exactly what you are letting yourself in for). They may show you a greater range of skills TA roles and responsibilities.

    2nd step
    Request from the school permission to 'shadow' a teaching assistant for a day (At the very least 1 day. More days would be better to see the range of the roles and responsibilities of a TA e.g. lessons that present logistical and management problems such as Art or PE special needs etc.)

    3rd step
    Look at the rates of pay, they are not exactly stellar. Consider non-perks like pay in holidays.

    4th step
    Read from TAs the down side of their role, which might not become apparent from doing the above. TAs are hardly likely to 'dish the dirt' in their own workplace, but perhaps some posters on the site might tell you the worst things that can happen in their experience.

    Then go forward.

Share This Page