How to become a Teaching Assistant


Teaching assistants have a pivotal role to play in helping pupils to reach their full potential across the UK, meaning it has the potential to be both challenging but highly rewarding.

From providing classroom assistance to teachers and creating learning resources, to engaging in 1-on-1 support where needed, it’s a role packed with a variety of tasks and responsibilities.

It’s a popular role too, with the latest government data suggesting that there is the full-time-equivalent of more than 265,000 people working in teaching assistant jobs.

But what qualifications and experience do you need to be a teaching assistant in either primary, secondary or SEN education?

What does the role include?

A teaching assistant can play a key role in helping teachers to manage a class, from keeping pupils engaged and on task to helping those who may be unsure.

They can help to promote good behavioural standards both in the classroom and in other parts of the school, while also helping with administrative duties and providing feedback to other members of staff on pupil progress.

Those with more experience may work as a higher level teaching assistant (HLTA), which includes added responsibilities, for instance, they may help with lesson planning or the delivery of some tasks if a teacher requires time for marking or other similar activities.

Those working in SEN education may also provide tailored support to pupils with a range of educational needs, although those in these roles will often have additional qualifications.

The basic skills

Alongside an ability to communicate clearly, teaching assistants in primary and secondary education must also be confident working with students.

A knowledge of diversity, safety and wellbeing are also essential, as the role will see an individual working with an array of people from different backgrounds.

An element of creativity can also help with lesson and task planning, while a flexible approach to work is needed as you may end up supporting various subject teachers and out-of-school activities.

This is especially the case at primary level, as teachers and teaching assistants will often just support one class, whereas in secondary education pupils will often have specialist teachers for different subjects.

What experience and qualifications do teaching assistants need?

Entry-level teaching assistant positions often require GCSEs (or the equivalent) in English and maths to showcase basic literacy and numeracy skills, alongside some experience of working with young people.

You’ll also need to have a criminal records check via the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before you can undertake employment.

Degrees are often not required, but they do show a level of competency, while any training in related areas such as childcare, youth work or nursery schooling can also help.

Some examples of experience could come from tutoring sessions or sports activities, as well as from youth work and within educational settings.

Several qualifications can help teaching assistants, from providing the basics to get an understanding of what primary or secondary education is all about, right up to more advanced skills for working in SEN education or other settings. These include:

  • Level 1 Award in Preparing to Work in Schools
  • Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools
  • Level 2 Teaching Assistant Certificate
  • Level 2 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
  • Level 3 Teaching Assistant Diploma
  • Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools
  • Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools

It’s also possible to become a teaching assistant by undertaking an advanced apprenticeship, where individuals will gain experience by working within school settings as they complete their training.

Once in a role, continued professional development will take the form of in-house training and externally-led courses, with staff often encouraged and supported to undertake advanced level qualifications.

If you think that a role as a teaching assistant could be right for you, note that job requirements vary by individual school, so the qualifications and experience needed in one location could be vastly different to that of another.

You can view all of our jobs here or alternatively you can submit your CV - your local education recruitment consultant will get in touch with you shortly.