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Am I totally crazy to be thinking about becoming a TA?

(26 Posts)
MuinteoirTuirseach Sun 06-Jan-19 23:29:40

Until last September I worked as a school lab technician and would quite often go into science classes to do demos/generally help out, usually with nurture sets. It was by far my favourite part of the job and I looked into becoming a secondary TA, but ultimately decided it would be too much of a pay cut (as a technician I was on a 52 week contract so it would have meant about a 25% reduction). Instead I decided to train as a science teacher, which was also something I'd been interested in for a while, and started a PGCE in September.

Unfortunately it turns out I don't really like teaching - or rather I do, but I don't think I'm suited to it. I'm making reasonable progress, but the constant pressure is already starting to feel like too much, and I can't imagine how much worse it will be as a qualified teacher with my own classes where I have a full timetable and sole responsibility for pupil progress, data and all the rest of it. My current placement school is nice but I've worked in some really unpleasant ones (staff rather than pupils), which were okay for me at the time as support staff, but I've been having recurring nightmares about having to either train or work as a teacher in similar places. I'm quite an anxious person anyway, I've been fantasising about getting into an accident or developing some kind of life-threatening illness so I don't have to carry on with this course, and basically I'm starting to think this was a terrible decision all around.

So recently I've been revisiting the idea of becoming a TA, and it's very appealing - not just because I could potentially have a life again, which sounds lovely, but even on the PGCE I've enjoyed helping individual pupils during lesson observations a lot more than I have teaching. I have a nurture set class and have had loads of positive feedback on the way I interact with pupils when I'm able to work with them 1:1, and I sometimes go into other SEN classes during my free periods when the class teacher needs extra hands because I love helping out with them. I like working in education and don't particularly want to change my career direction entirely.

My main concern is that I don't know how sustainable a career it would be. I've heard a lot about the number of TAs in schools being cut, and while there seem to be a lot of positions available in my area, I don't want to be living in constant fear of redundancy. At the moment I could live on a TA salary relatively easily (I would consider getting a second part time job as well, in order to be able to save for a deposit/get a mortgage). But I know there's not much scope for progression, and if my circumstances changed or I eventually decided I wanted to do something else I don't know how easy it would be to move into other careers. I've also never tried it, so I'm not sure if I have a completely unrealistic/idealistic view of what the job actually entails.

I'm under quite a lot of stress at the moment, not just because of work - a friend of mine died recently and another is very ill, which has meant I've been thinking a lot about what I want from my own life. I don't want to make a stupid decision that I'll later regret because I'm not thinking straight.

Can anyone give me any advice on whether you'd recommend it as a job? Do my reasons for wanting to do it sound reasonable, and are my reservations things I should be concerned about? Any help at all would be hugely appreciated, and also sorry for the novel blush

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MuinteoirTuirseach Sun 06-Jan-19 23:31:38

For context I'm in my mid-20s, single, no children or intention of having any in the foreseeable future (obviously that's something that might change one day).

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FluffyMcCloud Sun 06-Jan-19 23:32:21

I am an SEN TA and I love it. It’s all the bits of teaching I’d love to do without the pressure, marking, staying all hours, taking work home, constantly being told you are not good enough by SLT etc...
It’s terrible pay though. Really terrible.

fizzicles Sun 06-Jan-19 23:38:05

Would teaching in an SEN school suit you? Teaching is tough and training is really hard, but it does get easier with more experience, and if you can stick out your PGCE year you will have a lot more options available to you.

Sorry things are so hard for you at the moment, it sounds really difficult.

MuinteoirTuirseach Sun 06-Jan-19 23:38:39

Fluffy that would be pretty much my dream job, honestly. Do you mind if I ask how much you do get paid? My understanding is that most TAs are on about £12-13,000 pre-tax, with HLTAs on more like £15-16,000 - is that in the right sort of ballpark?

Do you think getting a second part time job to have enough money to save would be realistic, or is it the sort of job where you're completely exhausted by the end of the day?

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lorisparkle Sun 06-Jan-19 23:38:43

I agree with pp, being a TA can be fantastic within the right school and with the right teacher. There will always be a need for TAs in special schools but the pay is shockingly low for such an important job.

fizzicles Sun 06-Jan-19 23:41:57

Re-reading your post though, it sounds like teacher training is affecting your mental health, and that's so important to prioritise. Have you spoken to your doctor about how you're feeling? What you say about wishing you could have an accident so you didn't have to carry on reminds me of when my eldest was tiny - I would fantasise that something would happen that would mean we'd have to go back into hospital so someone else could look after us. I think I had PND, but didn't realise at the time.

Do you have a supportive mentor or tutor you can speak to about the situation? There might be options that don't mean you have to drop out all together.

riotlady Sun 06-Jan-19 23:42:12

I loved it but am retraining (as an occupational therapist) as the pay was just too low to stay on for the rest of my working career. Whether you’d have the energy for a second job depends- I worked in a SEN school and found it quite physical and tiring, but I know some of the other TAs did respite care on the side (often for kids from our school) to earn a bit of extra money.

lorisparkle Sun 06-Jan-19 23:42:42

The problem with TA pay is that it is usually pro rata and as TAs don’t work full time the take home pay is much lower. I have known many TAs who work additional hours elsewhere e.g cleaning at the school, evenings and weekends in nursing homes, etc. Exhausting.

crocsaretoocoolforschool Sun 06-Jan-19 23:45:06

I'd second teaching in a Sen school

MuinteoirTuirseach Sun 06-Jan-19 23:46:29

fizzicles thank you flowers It's something I have considered - I actually started the course somewhat intending to end up in either SEN or alternative provision. But I don't know how easy it is to get jobs like that, or whether the pressure is all that much different from mainstream. I'm still undecided on whether I want to try and see the course through or drop out before it takes much more strain on my mental health.

I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety in the past and I know that's my issue now as well. I haven't been back to the GP yet but will do next week. I've talked a bit to my mentor about the fact that I'm not sure it's the right career for me but not about the extent of the problems I'm having - it's something I want to try and bring up when I'm back in school (uni week next week so won't be for a while).

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fizzicles Sun 06-Jan-19 23:51:07

I hope you figure out a way through this. We need good teachers, and it sounds like you really care about your kids. I trained 9 years ago, and I think that relationship with your children is the most important part of the job. It does get easier, and autumn term always feels hardest, it's so long and so cold and dark! Have you started back yet? Spring term normally feels more hopeful to me!

MuinteoirTuirseach Sun 06-Jan-19 23:53:44

Oh gosh so many replies! lorisparkle, do you mean that ~£12,000 is the 52 week salary and the actual pay would be lower? I was under the impression that that was the amount after the term time nature of the job had been taken into account. If not then that probably wouldn't be doable sad

I used to do private tutoring and made a decent amount of money from that - it wasn't regular enough for that to be my only source of income, but it would probably be enough to top up a low paying job. Living costs are very low where I am and I don't have many expenses beyond food/bills/commuting, so at the moment I don't really need something that pays a massive wage. Not sure if I'm deluding myself thinking I could sustain that in the long term though!

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MuinteoirTuirseach Sun 06-Jan-19 23:56:40

fizzicles your last post made me cry (admittedly not difficult to do these days...) This is my last day of the holiday - I'm in uni next week and then back in school. I know part of the issue is having had the time off to worry about things I didn't have time to think about properly before, so maybe I'll feel better once I'm back in flowers

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Chocolate85 Sun 06-Jan-19 23:58:33

You sound like you’d be a great SEN teacher. You also sound like you’ve had a lot of upset and that has understandably taken it’s toll. Have you considered Berevement counselling?
I was an SEN TA and it really is a lovely job but the pay is awful. Overtime is expected and often unpaid. With budget cuts, TA’s are usually the first to go so it’s not the best time. Most TA’s I know have done it for a few years before doing a Teaching degree or are much older and not particularly reliant on the money. Sorry to sound negative, I honestly hope whatever you do makes you happy. Good luck.

PrincessHairyMclary Mon 07-Jan-19 00:05:53

I'm currently working as an instructor/unqualified teacher. Previously I worked as a TA, I much prefer being a TA but the threat of redundancy is real so an opportunity came up in my school and I was offered my current role. The bonus is that my pay has doubled and I'm eligible for a teachers pension instead of LGPS...but my deductions have increased massively and the tax credits I was eligible for have pretty much stopped so I'm not that much better off despite taking work home, increased stress etc.

If you love teaching and have a science background you could look into working in the education teams for the RSPB, other nature groups or local science centre.

EllenJanesthickerknickers Mon 07-Jan-19 00:06:21

A grade F TA in my county, so qualified, is on around £18,000 - £20,000 full time. That goes down to 85% of that for term time only. Full time is 37 hours a week. Some secondary schools have TAs on 37 hours/week if they do lunch time clubs and homework/after-school clubs. But many employ TAs for 25 - 30 hours a week. That would reduce you down to around 65-70%. 70% of £19,000 is around £13,000. It’s not much.

PrincessHairyMclary Mon 07-Jan-19 00:09:15

My TA wage was just under £1000 a month too low to pay tax or student loans and quite unmanageable if you are paying rent or mortgage on your own.

SimplySteve Mon 07-Jan-19 00:43:10

Nothing really to add, but DS wound up in a "special school" in his teens, I think you'd be amazing in one of these OP, would have loved someone with your attitude and empathy working with him. Is this an option? And TA pay is ridiculous, I had no idea it was so low (both kids post-school these days too, thankfully).

Holidayshopping Mon 07-Jan-19 11:51:09

~£12,000 is the 52 week salary and the actual pay would be lower?

Much lower. It’ll be based on 39 weeks and then the exact hours with the children (no lunch hour usually). My friend left teaching to become a TA (lowest grade TA despite 20 years of teaching experience) and I’m sure she said was taking home less than £700 a month full time.

deary Mon 07-Jan-19 18:27:54

I was in your position during my PGCE, I hated it, hated teaching and ended up quite mentally unwell.
I stuck it out until the end to qualify and got a job as a TA in a school I loved. I then got a teacher job in that school to do NQT and I love it. It is such a different experience to PGCE placement.
It won't always feel this tough! Try and get to June/July to get QTS!

Greentent Mon 07-Jan-19 20:18:12

I'm a secondary school TA and absolutely love it but the money is dreadful. There isn't much career progression at my school other than to cover supervisor, teacher, technician, pastoral care, office role. I would go with the advice of qualifying as a teacher first. Our deputy SENCO does a lot of teaching in small catch-up groups and you might be ideally placed for a job like this (from a TA role) when you are qualified. We have cover supervisor/TA roles which might also be a way of easing yourself in gently. They might teach Vcert qualifications for example. They used to teach Entry Level Science but this was stopped (I don't think it counted on the league tables). I don't know if other schools still do this qualification? Other possibilities might be working at a college (re-take maths/English), special school, autism unit within mainstream, special school, etc.

lorisparkle Tue 08-Jan-19 07:38:16

I hated my PGCE year - the most stressed I have ever been. I did try to quit but my Mum convinced me to keep going. I had always wanted to work in a special school but this was frowned upon by my PGCE tutor. I just scraped through and had an awful NQT year. Most of my observations were that I was great with the SEN children. I then got a job in a special school as a teacher and loved it. I did very well and got a promotion in a relatively short time. It is very hard work in a completely different way to mainstream but I love it. There are so many different types of specialist provision so it might be worth having a look. We have teaching students come to our school for an extra teaching practice.

MuinteoirTuirseach Thu 10-Jan-19 22:42:49

Thank you so much everyone for your kind replies. They really did make me feel better on a rubbish end-of-holiday evening with my half finished uni assignment due two days later flowers

I've been feeling pretty crap all week, but today I have a positive update! I had a chat with my uni tutor about everything on Tuesday, including the fact that I didn't want to make a stupid decision out of temporary stress, and she let me know that deferring would be an option so that I could come back to the course if I changed my mind once I'd got my life back on track a bit. Then yesterday I went to the GP and went back on antidepressants, which I stopped taking in September (I know! Not sure what I was thinking confused) When I was on them before I had horrible side effects for the first few days, so I told the school I was unlikely to be back til Thursday, which feels a lot more manageable than starting on a Monday and having to do a full week straight off. So hopefully I can get to the end of my current placement (Feb half term) and then make a decision about the deferral.

Also! It seems like I might be able to go to an SEN school for my second placement, which would be amazing. I asked near the start of the course if it would be possible, but for reasons too boring to go into I didn't think it was going to happen. If it does work out then I'd be much more willing to continue after February and see how it goes, so fingers crossed smile

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MuinteoirTuirseach Thu 10-Jan-19 22:58:01

lorisparkle that's rubbish that your tutor wasn't supportive about doing a SEN placement. I can understand it in a way as depending on your other placement it probably does limit your options as an NQT candidate for mainstream schools, but if you're really sure it's what you want to do then I don't see why they would stop you. Really impressed that you kept going, though - to be honest, if I had an awful NQT year too I think I would just say 'fuck this, I'm out'.

I did also do a visit to a secondary PRU as part of my course (not actually part of it, I organised it myself and arranged to have a day out of my regular placement), and I LOVED it. Not sure I could do it full time as I do enjoy the actual teaching aspect, and this was more about barricading doors and grabbing escapees lol, but I would definitely be up for doing it 1-2 days a week if that was an option.

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