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Online Teaching Assistant Courses – Everything You Need to Know

Teaching assistants work in a classroom environment and play a significant role in supporting teachers with their learning activities, particularly in supporting lessons and helping children to develop their reading and writing skills. There are currently 181,571 full-time teaching assistants employed in the UK and there is a continued demand for new teaching assistants to enter the profession.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a teaching assistant, then you may think that means you’ll need to go back to college. But you can gain the same high standard of teaching assistant qualification by studying online from the comfort of your own home. But are online teaching assistant qualifications recognised? And what are the benefits of choosing to study online? Here’s everything you need to know about online teaching assistant courses:

Can You Do a Teaching Assistant Course Online?

The traditional route to securing a teaching assistant qualification is to enrol on a 12-month college course, but taking time out from your work and home life commitments to attend college each week simply isn’t viable for everyone. Online teaching assistant courses make it much easier for anyone to access the teaching assistant qualifications they need without compromising their schedules. Online learning enables you to study at a time and place that best suits you, and also doesn’t require you to travel to a college setting which is ideal for rural learners. There are many benefits to choosing to take your teaching assistant course online rather than in person. These include:

  • Flexibility. As already mentioned above, when studying online you have the freedom to work when are where suits you. You can also set your own pace, meaning that if you want to study every day, or only study once a week, you can complete your course at the rate that best suits you.
  • Affordability. Because online learning providers don’t have the same high overheads as colleges with physical premises, they are able to offer the same high-quality courses and qualifications but at much lower prices. This means that online learning provides great value for money.
  • Increased course variety. Due to limitations on space and tutor availability, most physical colleges will offer just one or two-course options per subject, including teaching assistant courses. However, when you study online you are likely to find a much wider variety of courses to choose from.
  • More autonomy. Online learners develop greater time management skills and are better able to manage their own course materials. This is because they have more autonomy over how and when they learn and therefore have to take greater responsibility for their own learning schedules.

It is possible to study teaching assistant courses at all levels online, but some of the higher-level courses will require a work placement in a school too. This is because the practical elements of the higher-level courses must be verified in person, and this is also why you must already be working as a teaching assistant to secure a higher-level teaching assistant qualification.

Are Online TA Courses Recognised?

There isn’t a simple yes or no answer to the question ‘are online TA courses recognised’ because this very much varies from course to course. The key to ensuring that your online TA course is recognised is to pick the right online learning provider, and ensure that your chosen course is recognised by the professional body for your sector. The vast majority of the teaching assistant qualifications available with the Online Learning College are OFQUAL-regulated and therefore recognised across the UK. This means that you’ll receive the same qualifications from an online course as you would from a college course.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Teaching Assistant?

Although there are no formal qualifications required to secure an entry-level teaching assistant position, each school and local authority will have its own specific requirements. No matter which school or local authority you are working in, you should expect to have to demonstrate basic literacy and numeracy skills. In most cases, this will mean achieving a passing grade in GCSE maths and English (or National 4 or 5 qualifications if you’re living in Scotland).

Additional qualifications are not formally essential but can be useful in demonstrating your competence and skills. Some teaching assistants are educated to degree level, for example, which can prove useful in an academic environment. Qualifications obtained within the sectors of childcare, nursery or youth work and support work may also prove helpful. Of course, there is also a wide range of qualifications aimed specifically at preparing you for working as a teaching assistant. However, it’s important to note that if you are not already working as a teaching assistant, then you may be unable to take some hands-on teaching assistant qualifications. The CACHE Level 4 Certificate for the Advanced Practitioner in Schools and Colleges qualification, for example, should only be pursued if you are already working in education and are able to complete practical hands-on assessments within a school environment.

If you are new to the education sector and have no prior experience of working as a teaching assistant, then you should instead look to start your education in the sector with Level 1 or Level 2 qualifications. You can then progress to level 3 and 4 teaching assistant qualifications once you have a place within a school. The good news is that you can continue to work in your school during your training and will continue to be paid your salary too.

If you’re not sure what the qualifications needed and entry requirements are to work as a teaching assistant in your local area then the best thing to do is check for local vacancies and read what skills and qualifications are required. If there are no current vacancies then you could also consider contacting your local school directly to find out what they are looking for and ensure that you meet their educational requirements.

Finally, before you can work in a school you will also need to undergo an enhanced criminal records check through the Disclosure and Barring Service. This is not a qualification, but a check that you don’t have a criminal record and are considered safe to work with children.

teaching assistant supporting students

Why Study to Be a Teaching Assistant?

Teaching assistants play a vital and often underappreciated role within the classroom environment. As a teaching assistant, your everyday role will include supporting the teaching staff, helping them to deliver lessons and supporting students within the classroom who need additional support. So, what are the benefits of becoming a teaching assistant? They include:

  • Job satisfaction. Working within a classroom and helping to shape and educate young people is an incredibly rewarding job role. A teaching assistant’s role involves ensuring that students are getting the most out of their education, both academically and socially, and when you see the children or young people you support thriving this provides significant job satisfaction.
  • Opportunities for career development. After a period of working as a teaching assistant, you may feel ready to advance your career, and you will be afforded plenty of opportunities to progress within the education sector. Examples of other roles you could pursue include a Higher Level Teaching Assistant, or a specialised Special Educational Needs (SEN) teaching assistant. Some teaching assistants even use the experience they have gained within the classroom to return to higher education and train to become a teacher.
  • No two days are the same. You never know what a curious child might say or do, which means that life as a teaching assistant is never boring. The role is also incredibly varied: some days you may be supporting children on a one-to-one basis, and other days you may be preparing lessons or leading a whole class.
  • It is a job role that fits around family life. If you’re a parent looking for a career that will enable you to maximise the time you spend with your family, spending time with your children at weekends and in school holidays, then training as a teaching assistant is a great choice. Teaching assistants also don’t have the same additional demands that teachers do, so you can expect to finish working at the end of regular school hours.
  • Your job will matter. When you work as a teaching assistant you are doing a job that really matters. You will have a positive impact not only on your school but on your wider community too, and play a vital role in supporting the mental and academic well-being of the children under your care.

How to Become a Teaching Assistant

Whilst having the right level of qualifications and experience are essential if you wish to become a teaching assistant, perhaps the most important thing you need is the right skills and personality traits. In this profession, qualifications and experience aren’t everything. To become a teaching assistant, you will need to enjoy spending time around children and have endless amounts of patience. Other traits you will need to become a good teaching assistant include:

  • The ability to build good relationships with children and young people, using your skills to motivate and inspire them to focus and succeed.
  • A genuine concern for the safety and well-being of the children under your care.
  • Good reading, writing and numeracy skills. You may need to demonstrate these with relevant GCSEs or equivalent qualifications.
  • The ability to work well as a team. School communities are tight-knit communities, and you will be working alongside a huge number of other teaching and support staff including, but not limited to teachers, social workers, educational psychologists, headteachers and other teaching assistants.
  • A creative approach to your work and the ability to work flexibly, adapting your lesson plan or work schedule to suit the needs of your pupils. The ability to engage in a huge number of subjects and activities, from traditional academic subjects such as English and maths to more creative subjects such as cooking, art and outdoor pursuits.
  • Good organisational skills, and a self-motivated approach to managing your own workload.

Can You Be a TA Without Experience?

Officially, there are no formal qualifications or experience required to become a teaching assistant in the UK, but in real terms, each school and each local authority will have its own entry requirements. Many schools will want to see either a relevant qualification or experience within the sector when they are interviewing potential teaching assistants to join their teams. But if you don’t have any education experience you may well feel stuck in an endless cycle: you can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a job. Luckily, there are ways that you can secure a TA job without experience, and demonstrate your commitment to working within the profession. They include:

  • Undertaking voluntary work. You can gain relevant work experience without working in the educational field. Any experience that you can demonstrate of working with children and young people will show that you are committed to working within the educational profession. Examples of voluntary work experience you could undertake include volunteering to read in schools or support the staff on school trips, helping to run youth groups, or supporting a Scouting or Guiding organisation within your community.
  • Gain a Teaching Assistant qualification. Whilst you may not need a formal qualification to work as a teaching assistant, a recognised qualification is likely to help you secure the role in lieu of experience within the field. The qualifications that can help you towards a teaching assistant career are:
    CACHE Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools and Colleges
    CACHE Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning
    TQUK Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Autism
    Teaching Assistant Level 3
  • Create a professional CV. Your CV will create a first impression of you and is what will play a significant role in getting you a job interview so that your skills and personality can shine through. For this reason, your CV should be well constructed, highlight the skills you possess that are relevant to the job you want to do, and list all of your qualifications. These should be ordered so that the highest levels are listed first.
TQUK Level 4 Certificate for Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTA)

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