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Becoming a teaching assistant

(8 Posts)
henryhsmum Sun 26-Dec-10 11:15:14

Hi

I have a DS who is 5 with autism and goes to a specialist school. Until recently I had a responsible almost full time job as a town planner. I gave it up in July as I was finding the stress of working in a demanding job very difficult given DS and his autism.

I am keen to look for a job that fits in around DS and I have become more interested in education issues especially since DS was diagnosed. I am thinking of becoming a teaching assistant as it sounds interesting and fits in around DS. I know it is a popular choice for a lot of mums for that reason so was hoping someone could advise me on what I need to do to make myself a good candidate? I have thought of things Luke volunteering in schools but what's the protocol for this- ring the head and ask?? I also tried looking into qualifications and NVQ seems to be the accepted standard but can't do that until have a job so its a bit of a catch 22 situation. Does anyone know if there are any alternatives that are well regarded qualification wise. I'm hoping my experience with DS's autism will help me and I have done a course called Early Bird about how to communicate with autistic children.

It is a bit frustrating as i feel a bit like I will have to justify why I have given up a £30k plus a year job and want to now do a job that pays a fraction of that. For ne it isn't about money it's about me being fulfilled and working around DS. I could do a PGCE as I have a degree but I don't want the stress tbh! Can anyone help me as to how I justify to employers why I want such a huge pay drop. I think some think I will walk out the door as soon as something else comes along which is not the case at all!

Any advice on how I could get into TA jobs would be really appreciated, sorry to ramble on

vintageteacups Sun 26-Dec-10 16:25:07

You could do the GTP. However, it's very stressful and lots of work in a very short time and without any experience as a TA, the competition is high.

Try volunteering in a school who will then pay for you to do the NVQ. Not sure whether you would mention it to begin with but I guess if they had a place come up for a paid TA, they would consider you for training whilst you worked.

violethill Mon 27-Dec-10 08:13:27

I wouldn't do a PGCE or GTP if you're sure you don't want to teach, as its very difficult to even get a place on courses, and once you're on, the work and stress levels are high.

If you are sure you want a job to fit into school hours, with lower stress levels and no work outside your defined hours, then TA is the way to go. With teaching, particularly in the first few years, you'd be working far longer hours than your ds's school day, plus bringing work home in the evenings/weekends/holidays. So, teaching may be something to consider in the long term if you feel its for you, but right now I would go the TA route.

TBH as a graduate who has already proved themself in the workplace, I wouldn't worry about NVQ or other qualifications. You can demonstrate the ability to communicate effeectively, verbally and in writing, you have experience with ASD... those things count for a lot. Are you involved in the NAS or other organisations? That too would be useful. And the other big factor is what else you can offer a school - whether its some sort of sport/art/music... something that will make you stand out.

I would contact a few local schools to see whether you can get some voluntary experience as a way in. Then be prepared to apply for any jobs within a reasonable radius. Some people limit themselves to one particular school - they start out helping in their child's school, and then hold out for a job there, but you'll be in a much stronger position if you cast the net wider.

I won't pretend its easy getting TA jobs, as many graduates are after them now, but you have the advantage of being a graduate with a proven track record in work. I wouldn't worry about the salary drop issue, as you just need to explain what you have on here: that you have worked for XXX years on XXX salary as a town planner, but your experience with your ds has led you to think in a new direction. You have presumably continued working while your ds is young, so I don't think anyone will doubt your commitment to a new job. Its not like you've been at home and are just looking for an easy fill-in job until better things come along - you're doing it the other way round and giving up a bigger income for a smaller one out of choice.

SilveryMoon Mon 27-Dec-10 08:38:03

Hi henryhsmum
I am a teaching assistant at a SEN school and have been for 3 months.
It is the first TA position I have had and I had no experience with SEN children when I started.
I had been a SAHM for just over 3 years (my ds's are 3yrs and 2yrs) and had had enough!!
Before dc's I was managing pubs and bars so all very different.
I didn't want to go back to that but like you say, wanted something that would fit in around the kids.
I signed up with a teaching agency and they were able to get me into a school every now and again as a cover TA.
I worked 6 days over the space of 3 weeks and then the school asked me if I would like to commit to them long term (still working for agency but going to this school 5 days a week indefinitely). I said yes, and 2 weeks later the agency called me to say the school had asked for me long term.
On my 2nd day in my allocated class, I was told there was a few vacancies and I should apply.
I did, and the week before xmas, I had an interview and I got the job.
My official start date is the start of term and the chool will train me in NVQ's.
I have been very very lucky.

Before I got taken on by the agency, I also wrote to all the local schools asking if I could go in and read with a class a few times a week.
I got loads of replies, most schools will bite your arm off for it.

personally though, if I were you, I'd just start applying for advertised positions in this field. A lot of places would rather personality, life experience, common sense and passion over actual qualifications.
If you are looking at SEN schools, then you have very valid experience already, so I'd start applying for stuff and really sell yourself on application forms and interviews.

Also, your local college may do short courses (i.e. 1/2 days) on things like first aid and so on that are always useful.

Goodluck x

LIZS Mon 27-Dec-10 08:52:12

You don't actually need a qualification as such, a good standard of basic education would be fine to begin with plus an interets in children's learning and any relevant experience. Definitely approach a few local schools asking for a voluntary opportunity and also ask if any of them have access to courses to help you. Some charities and LA's fund short courses to introduce potential volunteers/TA's to the fundamentals of the National Curriculum and how it is incorporated into the structure of the school day, barriers to learning (ie. behavioural issues, English as second language) and resources. This can prove valuable in supporting your own child as well as a starting point for a future career. These courses can then feed on to an accredited course or NVQ. hth

LynetteScavo Mon 27-Dec-10 09:03:39

Our local special school is constantly looking for volunteers. All they ask is a CRB check, references, and a terms commitment. They also offer supply work to their volunteers. When a TA position comes up, it is usually offered to someone who has done some supply work in the school.

santagotstuckuptheCHIMCHARney Mon 27-Dec-10 09:13:13

i work in a special school.

volunteering is the way forward. also, register with your local council supply cover dept, then if any days come up that need filling, you are already registered with the council for a pay no etc...

our management team will always use people known to the children wherever possible when getting cover because our children don't react well to change or new staff.

in my experience in school, it seems that its all about personality not qualifications....if you are right for the job, then you'll fit right in...qualifications matter when it comes to getting higher up the pay scale....

i love my job...i work school hours, which fit in with my own kids, come home, and dont think about work at all...very low stress (outside of work!!!) the downside is the shit money, but its a price (no pun intended!!) worth paying imo.

good luck!

Tortoise1000 Mon 27-Dec-10 09:40:30

I have thought of things Luke volunteering in schools but what's the protocol for this- ring the head and ask??

Yes! You will be very welcome. Try your sons school, or a local school if that is handier for you

I also tried looking into qualifications and NVQ seems to be the accepted standard but can't do that until have a job so its a bit of a catch 22 situation.

Not an issue, volunteering is fine. Get started this term.

Check on your local FE college web site whether there are any January start courses. Or maybe you will be able to start in September. Our local collage web site says You will be required to find a work placement, either employed or voluntary in an appropriate school setting, at least 3 months prior to the course commencing. You will need to carry out a minimum of 10 hours work placement per week. The children and young people that you will be working with should be aged between 5 and 16 years to fit with the current age range for compulsory education. Those working in a special school or unit may be working with young people up to 19 years old.

i feel a bit like I will have to justify why I have given up a £30k plus a year job and want to now do a job that pays a fraction of that. For ne it isn't about money it's about me being fulfilled and working around DS. I could do a PGCE as I have a degree but I don't want the stress tbh! Can anyone help me as to how I justify to employers why I want such a huge pay drop.

Really dont worry about this. I gave up a job on twice that and nobody asked anything about it. It is completely normal for women to give up good jobs and go on the Mommy track. You have given up the job already anyway havent you? With a perfectly good reason. Your CV/application form will say:

^January 2011 to date: Teaching assistant at xxx school (and under the salary column if necessary write 'voluntary')

July 2010 - December 2010^ Stayed at home looking after my son aged 5

mmmm yyyy - July 2010 Town Planner^

Lots of womens CVs look like that.

It is true these jobs are in demand, but get stuck in, they are always coming up and they go to people who are volunteering and training in the field, and its really easy to get started.

Good plan not to be a teacher wink

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