Cheryl Head talks teaching assistant apprenticeships at The Learning Place

There are many training routes you can take to become a teaching assistant in Portsmouth, depending on what suits you personally. There are college-based courses and online training providers. Alongside these, Portsmouth City Council offers an 18-month paid apprenticeship scheme which is a fantastic way to gain your teaching assistant qualification whilst being in the classroom.

We spoke to Cheryl Head, programme lead for apprenticeships and community learning at The Learning Place to find out more about the teaching assistant apprenticeship scheme.

Could you give us an overview of what the apprenticeship scheme is? Is it a new qualification?

The teaching assistant apprenticeship has replaced the supporting teaching and learning apprenticeship. It looks at the knowledge, skills and behaviours of the practitioner in topics such as:

  • Keeping children safe in education
  • Understand how pupils learn and develop
  • The curriculum
  • Working with teachers to understand and support assessment for learning
  • Technology
  • The 'on programme' runs for 15 months typically with the final 3 months for the end point assessment (EPA) 

What do you do on the scheme and how does this differ to a college course? Could you tell me about the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?

By signing up to the apprenticeship, you will enjoy on the job learning whilst being paid and gaining your qualification. Our teaching assistant apprentices benefit from visiting different schools to attend specific topic sessions on special educational needs and or disabilities (SEND), maths, English and arts and crafts. This supports their off the job training hours and allows them to meet with their peers.

What qualifications do you need to enrol on the apprenticeship?

Ideally, people should have a level 2 qualification (C/4) in English and maths. If they don't have this, we can support you in-house to gain these qualifications during your apprenticeship. 

Do you need any classroom experience prior to starting and/or working at a school to be on the scheme?

You will need to source employment within an educational setting to start the teaching assistant apprenticeship. We can help you with this. People will need to evidence specific knowledge, skills and behaviour criteria during the apprenticeship. Apprentices will have the opportunity to apply their experience in the workplace to support their portfolio and complete the standards ready for their end point assessment.

Can you give us an idea about how much time you spend in the classroom versus how much time you spend studying? 

The programme sets out mandatory sessions once a month where you will study the standard topics. The rest of your time will be in the workplace. Every 10-12 weeks, an assessor will come out to the workplace to observe the learner in practice and complete a formal progress review.  

What are the different supporting roles available within a classroom? Is there an opportunity to specialise?  

Due to the rotation project, there are specialist topic sessions that you can attend to stretch and challenge yourselves. Other enhancements include 'level 2 in principles of safeguarding in the learning environment' and 'level 2 children and young people's mental health.'

Some apprentices within schools are utilised within a whole class while others work on a one-to-one basis with pupils. 

What happens after I finish the apprenticeship? 

This will depend on where you work during your apprenticeship as some schools will offer a permanent contract. If this is not available, then the apprentice will be able to apply for a qualified position elsewhere. You can find out about progression routes in support roles here. 

Do you have any top tips for becoming a teaching assistant?

Teaching assistants work with all age ranges and abilities. The primary role of a teaching assistant is to support a class teacher to enhance pupils' learning either in groups or individually. This ensure children and young people understand the work, know their learning objectives and stay on task in order to make progress.

You may find yourself promoting self-belief and social inclusion, playing an integral part in pupils' well-being. This ensures they thrive in a positive, nurturing and safe environment. 

To be a teaching assistant, you need to be a good role model, act with honesty and integrity, take part in team meetings and contribute to planning and class activities. 

Feel inspired? Become a teaching assistant

If you would like to find out more about becoming a teaching assistant in Portsmouth, come to our information event on Tuesday 5 July at Portsmouth Central Library from 10am. 

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Teach Portsmouth, Children, Families and Education at Portsmouth City Council, Civic Offices, Portsmouth, PO1 2EA
   023 9268 8088 (9.30am - 2.30pm)
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