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Teaching assistants are yet-to-be-qualified teachers who assist qualified teachers in a number of areas at primary and secondary schools.
They work with teachers to organise and develop teaching exercises and activities for classes and will sometimes even collaborate with a qualified teacher in the delivery of the class. Teaching assistants are not qualified to lead classes by themselves. They must be supervised.
In the classroom, an assistant may be in charge of one half of the class during activities to halve the load of the qualified teacher and provide extra support for pupils.
Teaching assistants can specialise in just about any subject found on the National Curriculum and will be placed in a department accordingly: in Maths or Science, an assistant might go around the class checking pupils’ progress; in Modern Languages, pupils may take it in turns to go and practice speaking with the assistant, and so on. The responsibilities vary depending on the size of the school and the age of pupils which it caters for but, in general, teaching assistants will do everything they can to support both staff and pupils.
In primary schools, the work of an assistant may involve reading, talking or listening to children, supervising break times and administrative duties such as filing records. Again, this depends on the school and the size of its existing workforce.
In some schools, a teaching assistant with particular skills might be employed to help children or teenagers who have special education needs or require extra support in certain subjects.