Primary school teaching assistants provide instructional and practical support to primary school teachers. They reinforce instruction with students in need of extra attention and prepare the materials the teacher needs in class. They also perform clerical work, monitor the students’ learning progress and behaviour and supervise the students with and without the head teacher present.
Primary school teaching assistants typically do the following:
- help teachers prepare lesson materials and equipment
- get the classroom ready for lessons and clear away afterwards
- work with groups and individual pupils to make sure they understand their work and stay focussed
- watch, record and report pupils’ progress to teachers
- supervise group activities, including outings and sports events
- provide a safe and healthy environment and follow safeguarding procedures
- help teachers manage class behaviour
- look after children who are upset or unwell
- lead classes with help from the teacher
The following job titles also refer to primary school teaching assistant:
primary school teaching aide
teaching assistant in primary schools
primary education teaching assistant
primary school assistant
primary school paraprofessional
primary school instructional assistant
primary school TA
Teacher assistants may spend some time outside, when students are at recess or getting on and off the bus. They may need to lift the students at certain times.
Injuries and Illnesses
Teacher assistants sometimes get injured on the job. They actively work with students, including lifting and otherwise assisting special education students, which can place them at risk for injuries such as strains.
Most teacher assistants work full time, although part-time work is common. Some monitor students on school buses before and after school. Many teacher assistants do not work during the summer; however, some work in year-round schools or assist teachers in summer school.
Teacher assistants in public schools generally need at least 2 years of college coursework or an associate’s degree. Some teacher assistants have a bachelor’s degree in fields such as education and psychology.
Some jobs may require staff to have certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.
Teacher assistants who help students with special needs usually require specialized training and experience.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Primary school teaching assistant is a Skill level 2 occupation.
Primary school teaching assistant career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to primary school teaching assistant.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of primary school teaching assistant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of primary school teaching assistant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of primary school teaching assistant.
- Primary school procedures: The inner workings of a primary school, such as the structure of the relevant education support and management, the policies, and the regulations.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of primary school teaching assistant.
- Manage children’s problems: Promote the prevention, early detection, and management of children`s problems, focusing on developmental delays and disorders, behavioural problems, functional disabilities, social stresses, mental disorders including depression, and anxiety disorders.
- Guarantee students’ safety: Ensure all students falling under an instructor or other person’s supervision are safe and accounted for. Follow safety precautions in the learning situation.
- Observe student’s progress: Follow up on students’ learning progress and assess their achievements and needs.
- Manage student relationships: Manage the relations between students and between student and teacher. Act as a just authority and create an environment of trust and stability.
- Support the positiveness of youths: Help children and young people to assess their social, emotional and identity needs and to develop a positive self image, enhance their self esteem and improve their self reliance.
- Maintain students’ discipline: Make sure students follow the rules and code of behaviour established in the school and take the appropriate measures in case of violation or misbehaviour.
- Prepare youths for adulthood: Work with children and young people to identify the skills and abilities they will need to become effective citizens and adults and to prepare them for independence.
- Implement care programmes for children: Perform activities with children according to their physical, emotional, intellectual and social needs by using appropriate tools and equipment that facilitate interaction and learning activities.
- Assist students with equipment: Provide assistance to students when working with (technical) equipment used in practice-based lessons and solve operational problems when necessary.
- Assist in children’s development of basic personal skills: Encourage and facilitate the development of children’s natural curiosity and social and language abilities through creative and social activities such as storytelling, imaginative play, songs, drawing, and games.
- Provide teacher support: Assist teachers in classroom instruction by providing and preparing lesson materials, monitoring the students during their work and helping them in their learning where necessary.
- Support children’s wellbeing: Provide an environment that supports and values children and helps them to manage their own feelings and relationships with others.
- Perform playground surveillance: Observe students’ recreational activities to ensure student safety and well-being and intervene when necessary.
- Give constructive feedback: Provide founded feedback through both criticism and praise in a respectful, clear, and consistent manner. Highlight achievements as well as mistakes and set up methods of formative assessment to evaluate work.
- Attend to children’s basic physical needs: Tend to children by feeding them, dressing them, and, if necessary, regularly changing their diapers in a sanitary manner.
- Provide lesson materials: Ensure that the necessary materials for teaching a class, such as visual aids, are prepared, up-to-date, and present in the instruction space.
- Assist students in their learning: Support and coach students in their work, give learners practical support and encouragement.
- Encourage students to acknowledge their achievements: Stimulate students to appreciate their own achievements and actions to nurture confidence and educational growth.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of primary school teaching assistant. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Workplace sanitation: The importance of a clean, sanitary workspace for example through use of hand disinfectant and sanitizer, in order to minimise infection risk between colleagues or when working with children.
- Disability types: The nature and types of disabilities affecting the human beings such as physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional or developmental and the specific needs and access requirements of disabled people.
- Learning difficulties: The learning disorders some students face in an academic context, especially Specific Learning Difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and concentration deficit disorders.
- Common children’s diseases: The symptoms, characteristics, and treatment of diseases and disorders that often affect children, such as the measles, chickenpox, asthma, the mumps, and head lice.
- Teamwork principles: The cooperation between people characterised by a unified commitment to achieving a given goal, participating equally, maintaining open communication, facilitating effective usage of ideas etc.
- Curriculum objectives: The goals identified in curricula and defined learning outcomes.
- First aid: The emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person in the case of circulatory and/or respiratory failure, unconsciousness, wounds, bleeding, shock or poisoning.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of primary school teaching assistant. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Consult students on learning content: Take students’ opinions and preferences into consideration when determining learning content.
- Prepare lesson content: Prepare content to be taught in class in accordance with curriculum objectives by drafting exercises, researching up-to-date examples etc.
- Facilitate teamwork between students: Encourage students to cooperate with others in their learning by working in teams, for example through group activities.
- Assess the development of youth: Evaluate the different aspects of development needs of children and young people.
- Escort students on a field trip: Accompany students on an educational trip outside the school environment and ensure their safety and cooperation.
- Liaise with educational support staff: Communicate with education management, such as the school principal and board members, and with the education support team such as the teaching assistant, school counsellor or academic advisor on issues relating the students’ well-being.
- Teach primary education class content: Instruct primary school students in the theory and practice of a variety of subjects, such as mathematics, languages, and nature studies, building the course content based on students’ existing knowledge and encouraging them to deepen their understanding on the subjects they’re interested in.
- Assess students: Evaluate the students’ (academic) progress, achievements, course knowledge and skills through assignments, tests, and examinations. Diagnose their needs and track their progress, strengths, and weaknesses. Formulate a summative statement of the goals the student achieved.
- Provide after school care: Lead, supervise or help with the assistance of indoor and outdoor recreational or educational activities after school or during school holidays.
- Promote the safeguarding of young people: Understand safeguarding and what should be done in cases of actual or potential harm or abuse.
- Work with virtual learning environments: Incorporate the use of online learning environments and platforms into the process of instruction.
- Advise on lesson plans: Analyse policy issues which impact on students’ experience of education. Advise on the ways in which lesson plans for specific lessons can be improved in order to reach education goals, engage the students and adhere to the curriculum.
- Perform classroom management: Maintain discipline and engage students during instruction.
- Organise creative performance: Organise an event in which participants can express their creativity, such as putting on a dance, theatre, or talent show.
- Maintain relations with children’s parents: Inform children`s parents of the activities planned, program`s expectations and children`s individual progress.
ISCO group and title
5312 – Teachers’ aides
- Primary school teaching assistant – ESCO
- Teaching assistant | Explore careers – National Careers Service
- How to become a teaching assistant | Prospects.ac.uk
- Teacher Assistants : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Teacher Assistant Job Description Template | Workable
- Elementary and Secondary School Teacher Assistants – StudentsScholarship.org
- Featured image: Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash