Teaching Assistants (TAs) in the FE sphere do exactly that — the role demands co-operation with teachers prior to lessons to maximise learning opportunities for students. The role sees TAs monitor the response of students to learning activities and liaising with the teacher to adapt activities in a bid to achieve intended learning outcomes.
Key duties include effectively establishing productive working relationships with students, while setting high standards. TA should provide students with encouragement, constructive feedback and praise to help them grow their self-esteem and skills. Students should also be encouraged to develop their independence by TAs.
The more stand-out candidates will be relatively outgoing, well-organised and will usually, though not exclusively, be seeking to get their foot in the door in the teaching world. A successful TA will develop positive relationships with their students, acting as their role model.
TAs can progress through the levels to reach Higher-level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) grade through a mixture of experience, qualifications and training. When reaching HLTA level, TAs may help plan lessons, develop support materials and deliver lessons unsupervised. HLTAs may also have responsibility for providing support for other TAs. Moves towards specialist support areas, such as Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), are one way of progressing. Incomes could be supplemented through offering private tuition or exam marking.
The TA role can be used as a platform into a teaching job. It will offer a realistic insight into the daily routine of being a teacher. A Department of Education survey published in September 2019 found that more than half of TAs interviewed either intended to or were considering becoming a teacher. Although these results related to primary, secondary and special schools, it would be credible to expect a similar proportion in the FE sector.
Some sixth form colleges will have a track record of teaching assistants going into teaching positions, highlighting a well-trodden path towards becoming an FE teacher.
TAs progressing to being a qualified teacher will benefit from starting salaries of around £23,000, rising to around £35,000 for full-time, permanent roles.
The terms Teaching Assistant and Learning Support Assistant are sometimes used interchangeably by recruiters. The crucial difference between the two roles is that the latter is more likely to focus on pastoral development than the former. TAs generally concentrate their attentions on academic support.
Recommendations from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) regarding LSAs include deploying them in a way that complements the teacher as opposed to replacing them. The EEF also calls for continued training and support for LSAs, as well as empowering them to help students manage their own learning.