The Role of the Teaching Assistant


Various staff members at two international schools talk about the benefits and added value which Teaching Assistants offer and how their support is invaluable.

They are the eyes, ears and all-around support to the children, supporting with the planning, teaching, and enable the classes to be run.

The team work together to continuously develop the education for the children, ensure the teaching is of top quality and inspirational for the children.

During this video, have a think about how your role as a teaching assistant, how diverse it is, and how you work with the teachers in the classroom to ensure the best provision for the children.


Peter Sloan (00:30):

So that the role of the teaching assistant in this school, and indeed in other schools in which I’ve worked, has been one of increasing importance. And I think the contribution that teaching assistants are making to learning and teaching in the classroom is fantastic. And that’s across the whole range of subjects.

Mirian Seoune (00:46):

I’m very lucky. I’m very lucky because I’ve been working with her for three years and we’re like sisters. We’re friends, really good friends.

Chloe Pyner (00:55):

As a teacher, you can get so much more done. It’s nice to have someone else in the class with you as well to support you.

Mirian Seoune (01:01):

Put your hand up.

Mirian Seoune (01:02):

I did activities she’d planned and also look after the children. I speak with the parents. So we work as a team. It’s really, really good.

Sarah Perea (01:14):

I couldn’t exist without my teaching assistants. They’re just, they’re my eyes. They’re my ears. They support me in everything. And remind me of things, if I get the day wrong or I’m doing a song with the children. They’re just wonderful.

Phil Hackney (01:25):

We help with the planning, obviously with the children and teaching the children the language because most of the children are Spanish. So when they first started nursery, they haven’t really got any language, English language.

Steuart Currie (01:38):

I think without my teaching assistants, my class wouldn’t run. We work together. We try not to put the control and power in my hands because working as a teaching assistant, I know what it feels like to work on an equally balanced classroom, and then not. We change our responsibilities daily. So one will be doing an adult focus activity and one of us will be doing … playing with the children, recording observations.

Miriam Torres (02:01):

I do lots of translation because, as I said, my specialty are languages and I speak … I’m fluent in six languages. So this school, we have lots of international students and I’m really good at that because I can communicate with lots of different cultures.

Zoe Daniels  (02:21):

I mean, we have a very close relationship with the teacher. It’s more of a team. I don’t look at it as teacher and TA because we work together. If I have an idea and I do have many, I suggest to him, “Well, maybe we could do it this way, maybe we could do it that way.” He then looks into it, decides whether he thinks that’s a good idea. We work together. I think that’s the main thing about being a TA. You’re not a separate person to the teacher; you are a team.

Julie Port (02:47):

Normally, I will work in a group and we could be doing something like painting. Today, I’ve had a group of children where we’ve been painting pictures of what they have done during the Easter holidays.

Steuart Currie (03:00):

But a lot of the time it will be me doing a circle time and they will be supporting, normally sitting with the children who need help and support, behaviorally or academically or anything like that.

Mirian Seoune (03:12):

The names … pansies. Well done. This is a little bit difficult.

Student (03:14):


Mirian Seoune (03:21):

Well done! I love the role play area and I love creating things. It’s something I enjoy a lot. I like playing with the children, creating new things and then they can give me their ideas and we can work together. And I love it; it is my favorite part.

Sarah Perea (03:37):

We do little TEFL type activities with the children. We follow the letters and sounds like in England, but we adapt it for the children here. So it’s fantastic having two assistants to support them. So every day, we can have little activities going on in the morning, and in the afternoon.

Phil Hackney (03:53):

The teachers do the planning and then I do the dough gym or we call it the funky fingers as well. That’s what it’s classed as because it’s not just a dough gym, it’s the other exercises as well. So we’ll give them things to do. Somebody is in charge of the patio and then they have time out of the week to do that as well. The TAs are in the actual classroom quite a lot of the time, whereas the teachers are out preparing and planning as well.

Phil Hackney (04:18):

Okay, [inaudible 00:04:23].

Steuart Currie (04:24):

I have one teacher assistant in charge of motor development, one in charge of creative and one in charge of what I call the touch and talk table, which is to encourage communication and language. And so I always try and channel everyone into their strengths, sometimes tackling their weaknesses as well because I do that with myself. Certain things I need to develop, so I try and do them every day.

Miriam Torres (04:46):

I plan the creative activities because I’m quite creative. Our patio time, when we have a problem, they all come to me because they know I can communicate with them or even with the parents.

Gary Williams (04:58):

I think I bring sort of a sense of humor to it because I think especially the children at this age, you can’t be too serious about yourself. It’s about the children coming to school, because some of the children are two years old when I come to this school. It’s more a case of getting them settled into an environment that they’re comfortable with.

Peter Sloan (05:16):

Teaching assistants have the opportunity to get closer to the children, to develop that bond of trust and to be able to support those who need that little bit of extra input, but also to challenge and extend those children who will benefit from that extra bit of prompting.

Stephen Baird (05:42):

The teaching assistants are just so involved. They’re working alongside the children and they’re supporting the teachers in the classroom. They’re prepared to do just about anything you would ask them.

Shelley Sykes  (06:01):

We’ve been working together for three years now, so we’ve got a good relationship and he is an invaluable resource. I think all teaching assistants are.

James Darley (06:11):

My primary role is to listen to readers and also support classroom activities, literacy and maths, and sometimes get involved with topic work as well. And it’s mainly to aid the class teacher and help certain groups that need more support.

James Darley (06:29):

We’re going to do it and I don’t want you shouting out the answer. I want you to try-

Shelley Sykes  (06:32):

He works with children, groups of children, on activities I’ve planned for literacy or for numeracy, where he’ll have a small group, either a group he’s supporting, children who are finding things a bit difficult and he’ll take things back a bit. But at the same time, he’ll also take an extension group to challenge them and push them on a bit further.

Jo Marceau (06:51):

The beginning of most lessons, we have a carpet time and we have the children on the carpet and the teacher will be teaching them. And she’s in front, and from behind, I can see what’s going on. I support her in helping the children reach their learning objectives. I do the simple tasks like sharpening the pencils, making sure the resources are there every day, required for each lesson.

Nikki Sawyer (07:10):

I’d say my primary role is to firstly, support the teacher in whatever she needs, and secondly, make sure that the children are happy in what they’re doing. I do a lot of work one-on-one with readers, especially, and help some of the children who find it more difficult with flashcards and extra help in that sense.

Jackie O’Neill (07:34):

I’m a teaching assistant, so I support the teacher. I work in a reception class, so the children that are starting school for the first time.

Emily Brown (07:44):

As well as supporting children in groups, she does individual work or talking with the parents. Obviously preparing for my lessons and things, she’s always got everything organized.

Jackie O’Neill (07:56):

I’m supporting their learning, extending and enhancing what the teacher has done with the children.

Sandra Cryer (08:03):

I work as a teaching assistant. So my role in the classroom is I look at that as a support to the teacher and to the children. So sitting on the carpet, we sit in circles or the teacher is using the white board. And I will either sit with them or I will watch what they’re writing on their white board because you still need to look and check they’ve written the numbers the right way and they’ve understood what’s going on, and they’re doing their own work.

Shelley Sykes  (08:30):

He’ll feed back to me if he feels that there’s a child who needs more challenging or need some more support in their reading or in their phonics.

James Darley (08:37):

Special educational needs children, making sure they’re focused on task and need additional help as well.

Shelley Sykes  (08:44):

And so we’re really a team. Between us, we’ll make sure that the children’s learning cycle is progressing, where he’s feeding back to me their learning and I’m then applying it into my future planning. He makes the learning fun. You can hear when he’s working in a group of children, they’re laughing. And so I think that that’s a nice … On dress-up days, he’ll always come in with a fantastic outfit. So he’s a good … an element of humor.

Jo Marceau (09:09):

I lead the art class on a Monday afternoon and I assist in the art class on a Tuesday afternoon. That’s primarily because my interest is in art and I’ve done a lot of that with the children and run an after school club.

Nikki Sawyer (09:25):

I also take a group for maths and often work with a group for English as well, for literacy. We do a lot of group work with topic and other subjects like that. So I took a small group and we made a skeleton out of pipe cleaners. The main aim for today was all the children could understand what the skeleton was, how it’s useful in the body and how we would be without it. [crosstalk 00:09:50]. You’ve got lungs in there too. [crosstalk 00:09:55].

Nikki Sawyer (09:57):

And I prompted some of the children with questions and we looked at books and I got a good idea of the ones who knew a little bit more, perhaps the names of some of the bones. And also they brought in knowledge that they had from previous lessons to do with organs and things contained within the skeleton.

Sandra Cryer (10:13):

Within year one, I support all the sessions of the class. So during their PE and art, I go to different areas of the school, and it just depends which lesson they’re working on. We work as a team, and she, the teacher I work with, gives me quite a lot of responsibility. So I do like working in a carousel with children, and even often it’s mixed ability. Sometimes we try and choose children for similar ability, just to see if we can push their learning a little bit further, which we found we can do a bit better if they’re of a similar ability.



Websites – Department for Education. – The Training and Development Agency for Schools – Child Development Institute – NHS – Teachernet – Department for Education. – The Training and Development Agency for Schools


Books and Policy Papers


  • Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools (Primary) (Burnham)  ISBN 9780435032043 (Heinemann 2010)
  • Understanding Schools as Organisations (Handy & Aitken) ISBN 9780140224900 (Penguin Books Ltd 1986)
  • Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools (Primary) (Burnham)  ISBN 9780435032043 (Heinemann 2010)
  • A Teaching Assistant’s Guide to Child Development (Bentham) ISBN 9780415311083 (Routledge, 2003)
  • Successful School Transition (Dawrent) ISBN 9781855034358 (LDA, 2008)
  • Understanding Children and Young People: Development from 5-18 Years (Lindon) ISBN 9780340939109 (Hodder, 2010)