Your quick guide to becoming a teaching assistant

Read our quick guide on becoming a teaching assistant in Portsmouth

Working in a school provides infinite rewards where you can make a difference. While a teaching career is a popular choice for some, joining a school in a support role suits people wanting different responsibilities. If you are interested in becoming a teaching assistant, turn that dream into a reality by reading our guide on becoming one. 

If you want more control over how you work, becoming a teaching assistant provides the flexibility to work around family life or other commitments. However, while many will know where to begin, the options in front of you are varied. Depending on your skills and expertise, you may find yourself supporting a whole class or as you develop in your role, you may support pupils on a 1:1 basis. 

As part of an initiative to inspire people to step into the classroom as a teaching assistant, we've put together a quick guide for those considering a career in the sector.

Meet minimum requirements  

When you apply for a job, you will often need to meet certain criteria. This helps the employer know you are the right candidate. The same applies for schools who set a series of minimum requirements when applying for learning support roles. The most common requires candidates to be qualified in English and maths (up to at least level 2). 

This ensures children are adequately supported up to GCSE standards. If you do not have this qualification type, adult learning providers including The Learning Place in Portsmouth can help you gain it. 

Some schools may ask for experience working with children and young people. This can include voluntary or paid employment. While not always necessary, the experience will look favourable when applying for a teaching assistant vacancy. 

If you are looking for experience working with children or young people, we would recommend contacting your local school to see if you can volunteer. To work within the school, you will need a DBS check for safeguarding purposes. Please speak with the school for specific requirements. 

Do your homework 

If you meet the minimum requirements or have put in place a way to gain those qualifications, the next step is to work out what type of support role you want. 

There are many options to consider. If you are less experienced, you are likely to start out in a more generalist role. This will see you supporting small groups of children or the entire class alongside a teacher. More senior roles may see you working on a 1:1 basis with children or specialising in areas such as inclusion or special education needs and/or disabilities (SEND).  

If you would like to train but earn while you learn, teaching assistant apprenticeships are available through the Learning Place. This might be a good option for those who have had time away from work or want to change career. Either way, choosing the type of role will be based on what you want from a job, your own experience and how you want to progress in your career. 

Useful resources

We've spoken to teaching assistants who work in Portsmouth as they share their own experiences from the classroom. Meet Rebekah Egerton, winner of the people's choice award, Shayla Leib, who swapped careers from a statistician to become a higher-level teaching assistant, and Dawn MacWhirter, a special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistant.

Learn about what motivates them to do their job on a day-to-day basis and why they decided to become a teaching assistants.

Start something new today

Want to learn more about becoming a teaching assistant? Teach Portsmouth hosts a series of information events as part of our initiative to inspire people to step into the classroom and become one.

If you want to support children and young people in the city, attend our Support and Teaching Assistant Jobs Fair at Portsmouth Central Library (third floor) on Tuesday 23 April 2024 to hear from teaching assistants and a school leader. Reserve your free ticket today!

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