At Axcis, we help many people to find work as teaching assistants in schools. But if you’re new to the role, it may seem a little daunting at first – so what information can help you? Find out our top 10 tips for new teaching assistants here.
What is the role of the teaching assistant?
Our article, “Special Needs Teaching Assistant Job Profile” is a great place to start if you are new to teaching assistant work. It outlines the key roles and responsibilities of the teaching assistant. For example:
"Special needs teaching assistants help children with a range of learning, physical or behavioural difficulties. You may work in a special school that supports children with a range of moderate, severe or complex special educational needs, or with an individual pupil or small group of pupils in a mainstream class."
Top 10 tips for new teaching assistants
Here are our key tips for new teaching assistants – if you follow this guidance, you’re sure to perform like a star TA!
Be friendly and approachable - this might sound obvious, but you need to be friendly, supportive and approachable. This applies to both fellow staff and students. After all, if you turn up to school in a grump, or sit in the corner like a shrinking violet, just think about the impression you are creating… being approachable and proactive is a huge part of being an effective TA.
Find out about the students you’re working with – to be an effective teaching assistant, you’ll need to find out as much as possible about the students you are supporting. This might include reading their EHC Plans, speaking to class teachers and the SENCO to figure out what motivates them, what stresses them and how you might best provide support
Enhance your SEND knowledge – if the students you work with have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND – and it’s likely that they will), then make sure you understand the conditions they are dealing with. There is lots of information out there about types of special needs and how to effectively provide support so read up if you want to do the best job possible. Our SEND resources section of the blog is a great place to start! At Axcis, we also run regular CPD training events which may help you. Check out our social media pages for updates.
Find out about the school behaviour policy – if you are supporting children who exhibit challenging behaviour, you’ll need to be familiar with the school policy on behaviour management. There may be a whole-school approach which you should be using. It is also worth speaking with the classroom teacher about this to find out what their advice is.
Work closely with parents and carers – guidance regarding EHC (Education, Health and Care) Plans tells us that parents, carers and other healthcare professionals should be working closely together to support children with SEND. You should make a point of finding out how your role plays into this and communicate with other professionals and parents as appropriate about the progress and development of the children you are working with.
Be prepared to help with personal care and medical needs when necessary – some teaching assistants will support children who have personal care and medical needs. This might include helping with feeding, going to the toilet or administering medication. Staff members who turn their noses up at providing such support are not likely to be seen in a positive light, so do your best to go into school with the mindset that you’ll tackle any task required with positivity and enthusiasm (even if it’s a part of the role you’re not keen on!)
Attend meetings and training – schools may ask you to sit in on meetings or attend training sessions. Even if you feel that this is outside of your contracted hours/job description, you should try to attend these sessions. Not only could they provide you with useful skills and information to enhance your own career, they could also help you to ultimately provide better, more effective support for the children you work with.
Be flexible – although a school may hire you with a specific child/group of children in mind, you could be asked at any time to alter your remit and help elsewhere in the school. You’ll need to remain positive when faced with changes like this as schools are under constant pressure to deploy staff in the most effective way possible, and this may include moving your around on a moments notice.
Go above and beyond – doing things outside of your contracted hours, such as helping with sports clubs, school plays or musical performances are what will make you stand out from the crowd – so if you want to be seen as a valuable member of staff, you should make a point of getting involved in things which are above and beyond the call of duty.
Stay calm - The last tip I’d like to offer is to remain calm. Schools can be stressful environments at times, and it can be easy to allow yourself to become stressed. This can negatively affect both your own performance and the progress of the children you work with. So do your best to keep calm – you may find articles and videos online which can offer you some useful tips for this if you are a bit of a stress-head!
If you follow the tips above, you should quickly make yourself an invaluable member of staff no matter what school you work in!
Are you looking for SEND staff or work?
If you're looking for a SEND teaching or support job in England or Wales, why not register with Axcis, the SEND recruitment specialists? Or perhaps you need to recruit staff for your school or provision? If so, why not take a look at the Axcis Website, or get in touch today to find out how we can help?