The number of pupils attending state schools in Britain is growing rapidly putting enormous pressure on the education system. According to recent Department of Education figures, however, teacher recruitment is almost stagnant, but there has been a marked increase in the recruitment of teaching assistants, so that now there is one teaching assistant for every two teachers. Most are women who are eager to work with children. As the job usually only involves work during term time, it is ideally suited to mothers wanting to get back into the workforce but needing to be at home when their children are not at school. This is what they can expect.
As the name suggests, the role of the primary school teaching assistant is to help both teachers and students handle their work. The job is varied and challenging and usually involves:
- Helping to supervise children as they work singly or in groups.
- Assisting in setting up classroom activities and clearing materials away afterwards.
- Helping to maintain classroom discipline by keeping the children calm, diffusing potentially difficult situations and dealing with situations where a child’s behaviour has become confrontational or disruptive.
- Ensuring that children remain focused and are enjoying their learning.
- Giving individual or small group help to children in need while the teacher is engaged in looking after the rest of the class.
- Supervising and ensuring the safety of children on excursions outside the classroom.
- Liaising with other staff and representatives of outside agencies, like social workers or special needs teachers, when the need arises.
- Liaising with parents to discuss the progress of their children, both at scheduled parent-teacher meetings and as the need arises.
- Helping the teacher to maintain records and to handle other administrative duties.
You do not need any formal qualifications to become a primary school teaching assistant though you will probably have to demonstrate basic literacy and numeracy skills. Also a relevant National Vocational Qualification will show that you have a good understanding of the requirements and responsibilities of the role. The requirements are set by the school itself or the local authority and therefore vary from place to place.
Employers will prefer candidates who have some experience of working with children. They will look for someone who can demonstrate a commitment to working with young children and a patient, caring and sympathetic nature. Candidates need to have good communication and organisation skills, be willing to learn and show that they have a responsible attitude. As with all individuals seeking to work with children, they will also have to undergo checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service.The Author: