What is the difference between a Teaching Assistant and a Learning Support Assistant?


Classroom support plays a vital role in helping children to succeed in primary education and beyond, but with several job options available, how do you go about deciding which is right for you?

If you’re considering a career in the classroom, becoming a teaching assistant or learning support assistant are two of the main roles you may want to think about.

With subtle differences between them, it’s important to know what each role entails. Both require good communication skills for example, as well as bundles of enthusiasm, and good knowledge of English and Maths.

Considering a teaching assistant role?

For those considering a teaching assistant role, they will usually be assigned to a class or even to a year group, to help numerous children to reach their full potential.

As well as providing academic support in lessons and helping a teacher to manage behaviour, they may also run small groups with certain pupils to help boost their writing, reading or maths skills.

Many elements of the role are similar to those of a teacher, such as providing tips and guidance in lessons, but a teaching assistant will not have lesson planning or marking to deal with.

Those with more experience in higher level teaching assistant roles (HLTAs) may have additional responsibilities, such as supporting a teacher with lesson planning or overseeing other support staff.

Several recognised qualifications are available which can help to enhance your skills, such as the Level 2 Teaching Assistant certificate or the Level 3 Teaching Assistant Diploma – as schools can set their requirements for teaching assistant roles, these may be a prerequisite in some instances.

Or what about a learning support assistant role?

A learning support assistant role differs in that it can focus more on pastoral development, with work often done with only one or two children, many of whom may have a range of complex special education needs.

They’ll often require tailored support throughout their time in primary and secondary education, or assistance may be provided in specialist SEN education settings.

Part of the role will involve working closely with the school special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) who deals with the provision for children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

The support offered by a learning support assistant will vary but can include helping to motivate pupils, working on speaking and listening, or providing additional help with key subjects such as English and maths.

Targeted interventions are often delivered on a one-to-one basis to enable a pupil to catch up if they have fallen behind in class.

Alternatively, a learning support assistant could be brought in to aid talented children and push their academic limits – this is especially the case in secondary education where grades may influence potential career and university options.

You should also note that the terms teaching assistant and learning support assistant can be used interchangeably in some local authorities, so be sure to check when looking at roles.

If you’re unsure which of the two roles is right for you, give us a call for an informal chat about your options.

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