These roles involve working under the direction of a qualified teacher to support learning of the children in the classroom. Role titles may include Teaching Assistant or Learning Support Assistant.
There are specific qualifications for classroom/teaching assistants, level 2 certificate in supporting teaching and learning (sometimes referred to as NVQ2) and level 3 diploma in specialist support in supporting teaching and learning (referred to as NVQ3). The level 2 qualification is of GCSE standard and is the initial qualification for classroom/teaching assistants. The level 3 diploma is of A level standard and would be taken by experienced practitioners who are able to evidence high levels of skill and knowledge. Both qualifications are vocationally based and are usually undertaken once employed in a school.
Pupil support staff are responsible for the welfare of pupils through helping them to overcome a variety of barriers to learning. Roles range from first aid, education health care assistant to learning support mentors and home school link workers. All require the post holder to be empathetic, a good listener and have the ability to encourage and motivate children and young people so that any barriers, whether they be family circumstances, poor literacy or numeracy skills, low self esteem, or other difficulties, can be discussed and shared with a view to supporting the pupil to overcome them. An appreciation of confidentiality and understanding of correct safeguarding practice is particularly important in these roles. Safeguarding training is provided by schools for all staff.
These roles are normally term-time only which can be an attraction.
Routes into these roles
For those seeking an initial appointment typical attributes and skills schools might look for are:
- evidence of ability to build good working relationships with children and adults
- good literacy and numeracy skills
- a commitment to working with children to enable them to achieve
Where schools are looking for particular qualifications this will be specified in the advertisement. Experience in working with children might not necessarily have been obtained in a paid capacity. Sometimes, particularly for an initial appointment, evidence of the ability to get along with children gained in a voluntary capacity, for example through uniformed groups, sports clubs or as a volunteer in schools, might also be taken into consideration by the school.
Classroom based support staff roles can also be invaluable for graduates who are considering training to teach and are looking for some classroom experience before committing to a particular programme of teacher training.
Given the range of roles it is important, particularly for those seeking an initial post, to read the advertisement carefully to determine which level of role is being advertised. If you are unsure of the level of post being offered, or your suitability for it, most schools would be very happy for you to telephone them to discuss the vacancy prior to applying.