A classroom assistant is someone who will aid a teacher in the teaching of his or her classes by spending time with the pupils – who are normally of primary school age – during class time. The role of a classroom assistant is to assist with those classes where numbers are high and the teacher is required to spend most of his or her time teaching the entire class as opposed to spending time on a one to one basis.
Typically classroom assistants will help with any of the following:
- Preparing the classroom for lessons
- Listening to children read
- Telling the children stories or reading to them
- Assisting with maths
- Helping children who need additional support in class
- Assisting with school outings or sports days
In Secondary school education a teaching assistant would normally be found to be assisting those pupils who have learning difficulties or some form of disability as it is now common place for disabled pupils, or behaviourally disadvantaged children, to be fed through the mainstream education system as opposed to sending them to special needs schools, which are now becoming fewer in number.
As a classroom assistant you may find that your title is not that of Classroom Assistant but that of Teaching Assistant, Non-Teaching Assistant or Learning Support Assistant. There is also what is known as Higher Learning Teaching Assistants: these assistants have more say in how lessons are put together, prepare teaching aids and materials, supervise the class in the absence of a teacher and also help other teaching staff as and where necessary. As a Higher Learning Teaching Assistant (HLTA) you may also be required to assess the work of the pupils in your class.
How to Become a Classroom AssistantA good place to start if you want to become a classroom assistant is to volunteer at a local school. Perhaps you are a parent yourself and have a child attending school – if this is the case then you could offer your services to the school to help out where class size demands. If you do decide to volunteer at your local school you must first – as is the case with all roles involving children, the elderly or the vulnerable – have a DBS check carried out. This DBS - Disclosure and Barring Service check allows the school to obtain information as to whether or not you have a criminal record or whether you are a risk to children, the elderly or people considered to be vulnerable. Obtaining this disclosure early on is a distinct advantage.
You should be enthusiastic, easy going, creative and be able to work as part of a team. In addition to this you should be able to communicate as positively with children as you would with adults. Children find it difficult to communicate with adults who find it difficult to communicate with them.
The entry level criteria will vary from school to school so it is best to contact the school you are interested in volunteering for – or your Local Education Authority (LEA) – who be able to put you on the right track.
In some areas of the country new pilot schemes have been rolled out whereby individuals can qualify to become a classroom assistant with qualifications that are similar – and also recognised in the same way – as NVQs.Again it is best to consult your Local Education Authority (LEA) to see if this is the case.
It is also worth mentioning that – as a classroom assistant – your time may not always been spent on site and you may be required outside the normal school hours if outings or after school clubs take place. Again this varies from school to school but if you are enthusiastic and motivated then this will not be a problem for you.
Being a classroom assistant can be a rewarding and character-building occupation, which has led to many classroom assistants continuing their study in order to become full time, qualified teachers.