What It's Really Like To Be A Newly Qualified Teaching Assistant

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn:

  • About the expertise and experience of a newly qualified Teaching Assistant.
  • Gain insight into the education sector and learn valuable lessons from a Teaching Assistant.
  • How to find and apply for the best supply of Teaching Assistant jobs.

If you’ve ever considered a career as a Teaching Assistant but you weren’t really sure about the route to entry, qualifications needed and what it’s really like to work with children, you’re not alone! 

We recently got chatting with Holly, a newly qualified Teaching Assistant with a passion for helping children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) thrive and succeed in a mainstream school.

Holly has dreamt of a career in the education sector since she was a teenager and has committed to fulfilling that dream by volunteering, studying and working hard. Fresh out of university, Holly has spent the last 4 months learning the ropes at her job as a Teaching Assistant in two reception classes.

Throughout this interview, we discover how Holly used her instincts and gained confidence in the classroom, and how her volunteering experience, qualifications and instincts have prepared her for a career in the education sector.

Tell us about your career journey so far Holly

I have wanted to work in education since around the age of 12 or 13 years old, and by having this goal from a young age, I was able to focus on getting the right experience and qualifications early on.

During my secondary-school and sixth form years, I secured many volunteering opportunities in and outside of school giving classroom support to children between the ages of 4 and 16 years old, including work in a specialist school, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, while studying for my A-Levels in 2019, I was able to assist with a forest school for 2 to 5 year old pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). It was by doing this that I decided I wanted to do more specialised work with children with SEND leading to my Bachelor's degree in Education Studies with Special Educational Needs and Inclusion at York St. John University.

Between finishing my degree and graduating, I continued to volunteer at primary schools, including assisting an extracurricular activity where pupils aged between 9 and 11 wrote a school newspaper. This was one of my favourite volunteering experiences, as I was part of writing a school newspaper when I was that age. I'm very proud to have been able to watch the after-school club grow and continue progress.

The day after graduating with a degree in Education Studies with Special Educational Needs and Inclusion, I was given my first trial day as a Teaching Assistant for two reception classes, where I have been for the last four months.  

What does your role consist of?

My current role as a Teaching Assistant for 4 to 5 year olds requires a lot of hard work, to keep pupils focused on the task at hand and making it engaging enough for them to want to join in. By working with the other Teachers and Teaching Assistants, we encourage them to use their own creativity and problem-solving skills to achieve anything they want to while ensuring they learn life-skills along the way.

How do you keep up-to-date with changes in the education industry?

I haven't been in the education industry very long, but I do keep up with news sites and social media, and word-of-mouth from my colleagues.

What’s the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned in your career?

Everyone’s brain works in different ways, so you have to find the right methods for the right person - including yourself. This means having the patience to explain how you view the situation in a manner that is easy to understand, and being able to listen to how someone else views it so you can eventually meet on the same level.

Secondly, as someone who has always needed a routine, I’ve learnt to adapt! Adopting a ‘just roll with it’ attitude to my workday has helped both myself and the people I work with.

What is your favourite aspect of your role as a Teaching Assistant?

Being able to watch pupils overcome long-term challenges has always been delightful for me, because I know how much work and effort they have had to put in, despite constantly wanting to give up.

I also really love working with all of the older students on placements and other supply Teaching Assistants, watching them work out the best methods to interact with the pupils we have.

What challenges have you faced in your career?

I work with a high number of SEN children and children with behavioural problems, so figuring out what works best for each child has been a challenge, but it is always worth it when you finally get to the point where you understand how best to support them. 

I think that the biggest challenge is convincing a child not to give up on their dreams, no matter how much they seem to be struggling. It’s much easier to tell a child to persevere and not give up, than it is to get them to trust that you really do believe they can practise and achieve their goals.

What improvements or progress would you like to see in the education sector?

Although I've not been in this sector long, I can see that Teachers are constantly trying to improve upon their current methods and continuing the ones that work well for them, which always makes me pleased to see. 

It's obvious that Teachers and Teaching Assistants are doing their best with their resources, however the government and local councils need to be doing more to support them.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in education?

You are going to make mistakes, and that’s absolutely fine - in fact, that's the whole point of it. Make a mistake, and learn from it. Just don't let it get you down. Go easy on yourself. It's not a simple job, and if you've had a difficult day, that's alright. Find healthy coping mechanisms and look after yourself.

What’s next for you?

I'm quite comfortable at the moment. I’m looking at different placements, but I'd also be thrilled to stay at my current placement. I purposefully left myself time before going for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) as I wanted to start as a Teaching Assistant before progressing to the next step ‘Teacher’. At the moment, I'm just seeing where my career path takes me and as long as I’m happy, that’s all that matters.

What was your experience of using Spencer Clarke Group’s services to find a Teaching Assistant job?

I've really enjoyed working with Spencer Clarke Group as it's given me more freedom to choose where to work in the short-term, rather than being held down at a job that I don't like. It also gives me the chance to work with lots of different people and broaden my own experiences in the field of education.

Spencer Clarke Group has always been very informative and helpful whenever I've asked anything, plus incredibly patient when I've struggled through a process and they've had to explain each step. I wouldn't choose any other recruitment agency now that I've had the pleasure of working with them.

Considering a career as a Teaching Assistant?

If this sounds like the role for you, check out the latest supply Teaching Assistant jobs currently available, or upload your CV and we will notify you when a relevant opportunity arises.

We work with hundreds of SEND and mainstream schools, predominantly in the North West area, so why not get in touch to see where your career could lead today? 

If you liked this interview, you might also love: 

Struggling to recruit Teaching Assistants?

As experts in mainstream and SEND school recruitment, we can help you with your staffing needs. We currently work with hundreds of schools, and have exclusive access to some of the best supply Teaching Assistants in the North West. 

If you’re struggling to fill a Teaching Assistant vacancy, why not get in touch with our Managing Consultant Jamie Heath on 01772 954200 to discover how we can support you.

Share your experience

Every individual brings a unique set of experiences, thoughts, and insights to the table. We believe in giving a voice to a community of professionals to inspire positive change and champion reform in the education sector.  

If you work in the education sector and would like to share your own personal and professional experiences, we’d love to hear from you. Perhaps you have a different perspective, could offer a fresh angle, or want to challenge assumptions. 

Simply reach out to our Head of Content, Nicole Sherwood, to discuss a collaboration which makes your voice count. 

Meet Jamie Heath

Who is Spencer Clarke Group?

Since 2017 we have been committed to finding clients outstanding individuals for their team and helping candidates secure a fulfilling job position. We have a wealth of expertise across eleven different specialisms and we are on hand to assist with every stage of the recruitment process.

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