Thursday, 18 September 2014

Teaching assistants: the unsung heroes of schools

Teenage Students Studying In Classroom With Teacher

‘If you enjoy working with children and would like to play a part in their education and wellbeing, a job as a teaching assistant could be ideal for you.’ This is how the role of a teaching assistant is introduced on the National Careers Service website.

There are more than 200,000 teaching assistants in the UK, a veritable army of passionate, patient and productive assistants to teaching staff across the country. With the demands of schools increasing all the time, and teaching staff under more and more pressure to raise standards, it is to teaching assistants that they often turn to for help.

A teaching assistant has a varied and interesting role, with no two days being the same. The TA might set up the classroom, create displays of pupils’ work and supervise a group activity – all before lunchtime! It’s often the TA who is the shoulder to cry on after an accident, listens to children reading and helps to build their confidence.

At secondary level, teaching assistants often work with small groups or individuals, perhaps with supervising a science practical, and in many schools they often have a specialism, for example providing additional support to children for whom English is not their first language.

At NEC we’re lucky enough to have two members of the team who have formerly been teaching assistants. Stephanie, who is the course co-ordinator for NEC’s new supporting teaching and learning courses (more on those later), told us about the ups and downs of her five years working as a teaching assistant in a primary school. ‘A job with challenges is a job worth doing, and when the challenges you face and the problems you solve have a positive effect on a child's life it makes it all worth while,’ she said.

‘The best thing about being a TA is when you witness a child discovering or achieving something for the first time, from doing a backward roll, to completing a whole page of a story, to building a bridge from junk that's strong enough and stable enough to carry a car. Supporting a shy child to find the confidence to speak in front of their class, and eventually in the school play is priceless. Tailoring the lesson plan to suit a child's individual needs and seeing them achieve is thoroughly rewarding.

Of course, things don't always go to plan, and children can take out their frustrations on staff as well as their fellow students. Training ensures you know how to respond at the time, and a supportive working environment enables you to cope with the event. It is a long time since TAs have been just an extra pair of hands in the classroom. Whether working with an individual child, small groups or in a whole class environment, there is nothing better than making a connection with a child that opens their minds and shows them the way to so many more discoveries.’

A career as a TA is a popular choice for parents looking to fit work around their children. There are often both full and part-time roles available, and being term-time only, it helps to avoid issues of childcare during the school holidays.

Many people that are thinking of becoming teachers often start off as a teaching assistant. This is an excellent place to start if you want to gain some valuable classroom experience before committing to training.

Whatever your reasons for becoming a teaching assistant, you will need to think about qualifications. And if you are, you’ll be pleased to know we now have a brand new set of courses accredited by CACHE which can help you!

At NEC we have recently launched a full range of supporting teaching and learning qualifications aimed at teaching assistants. From the Level 2 Award in Support Work in schools which is a great introduction if you’re thinking of becoming a teaching assistant, to the Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools for experienced teaching assistants looking to take the next step in their career, there is a course for you.

Like our other courses, this new suite is delivered by distance learning. This means that you can fit your study in around your other work and family commitments, allowing you to study at your own pace and in your own time towards a truly rewarding career.

To learn more about our new courses or to browse our full range of flexible distance learning courses, visit our website or get in touch and speak to our team. You can keep up to date with all the latest NEC news and events by subscribing to our email newsletter or following our blog. You can also find us on social networks, including Twitter and Facebook.

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