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The Importance of Experience in Becoming a Teaching Assistant

Ellen Goodall, Primary School Teacher
6 Aug 2023
5 min read
The Importance of Experience in Becoming a Teaching Assistant

Calling all aspiring superheroes of education! If you’ve ever dreamt of stepping into the world of education as a Teaching Assistant, you’ve come to the right place. So put on your invisible TA’s cape and get ready for an adventure that will have you running to the nearest classroom before you can say ‘ABC’!

Working as a Teaching Assistant can be extremely rewarding. Being around young people can bring excitement and daily challenges that keep the job fresh and make you feel like you are making a real difference in people’s lives. Teaching Assistants are a vital part of any learning environment, and they can have a very fulfilling role in helping children develop. If you are positive, patient, and have a strong concern for student safety and well-being, then being a Teaching Assistant could be for you!

What Does the Role of Teaching Assistant Entail?

The main purpose of a Teaching Assistant is to help students reach their academic and social potential. The role varies from day to day and from school to school. Some workplaces will want Teaching Assistants to work with specific students with Special Educational Needs or specific behavioural needs. Other education providers may require the Teaching Assistant to support a whole class, depending on the topic or task being delivered. A Teaching Assistant is there to help students access the learning from the expert in the room, the class teacher. The evidence and results of your work as a Teaching Assistant will be shown through your students’ progress, achievements, and well-being.

How Important is Experience?

Experience can make a real difference when you are applying for positions as a Teaching Assistant. Many schools are more likely to employ someone with previous experience working in a school or with young people in some capacity. Schools can provide training if you aren’t experienced, but do bear in mind that schools are very busy environments, so a lack of experience would be best counteracted with energy, initiative, and dedication right away.

Schools are willing to give people a chance with little or no experience, but this usually means beginning at the lowest pay grade and having very little autonomy over your responsibilities as you learn on the job.

Transferable Skills and Experience

Even if you have not worked as a Teaching Assistant before, that does not mean that you do not have relevant experience. If you have worked in childcare, coached children’s sports teams, supported clubs such as Brownies and Cubs, ever been a tutor, and au pair, a nanny or a babysitter, have a degree/background in drama or music, participated in youth work, or worked at summer camps or school holiday clubs, then you almost definitely have relevant experience!

How to Gain Experience as a Teaching Assistant

If you want to build up your experience as a Teaching Assistant, then there are a number of ways that you can do this:


Most schools welcome volunteers, particularly primary schools. They love to have an extra pair of hands to help prepare resources, work with small groups, or listen to students read aloud. Secondary schools will accept volunteers, but often it is best if you already have a connection with the school so that schools are more likely to give you the opportunity. Secondary schools are often asked by many would-be trainee teachers for volunteer placements prior to beginning teacher training courses.

Complete a Placement

If you are able to secure yourself a placement, whether paid or voluntary, then ask to work with a wide variety of students and staff if possible during that time. Make sure you are punctual, professional, and really positive with the students. That way, you can ask for a reference or recommendation to help you build up your portfolio of experience as a Teaching Assistant.

Train on the job

Many schools and academies now offer apprenticeships for Teaching Assistants so that you can be trained while getting paid and building up your experience. Apprentices get assigned a mentor who can be their guide throughout their training and ensure they get the support they might need. You may then be able to stay on at the school once you have completed your training. Your employer may require five GCSEs (grades A* to C) or the equivalent, including English and maths.

Ditch traditional agencies

Signing up with an education supply agency is a really convenient way to build up days of experience or be assigned longer placements. But did you know you can get paid more by opting for a more modern option?

With Zen Educate, you can find a wide range of TA jobs in your area, and ensure that you cut out the middle man of traditional agencies. This means you get paid more fairly while school budgets go further.

Remember, there’s no ‘superhero formula’ for being an extraordinary TA – just a pinch of passion, a dollop of patience, and a whole lot of love for learning.

Zen Educate is transforming how schools find great teachers.

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