Inspire Me to be a...Teaching Assistant


In the 'Inspire Me' blog series, we interview people in different careers so you can get an insight into their role, and see if it is something you might like to do too. 

This week, we spoke to Steph, a Lead Teaching Assistant from London:

1. What is your job title?

Lead SEND Practitioner

2. What does your job involve?

I work within the Special Educational Needs department in a mainstream secondary school. I specialise in supporting students with physical and sensory needs i.e. wheelchair users, students with visual impairments or Global Developmental Delay, as well as students with Cerebal Palsy. 

I liaise closely with all external agencies (e.g. physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and CAHMS), as well as acting as a Key Worker. This means I am a key point of contact for parents, external agencies and school staff. 

I am expected to oversee all medical Teaching Assistants to ensure we are helping students who have profound difficulties to meet their full potential. I support in class and run my own interventions. Interventions are when students are either removed from class to work on a one-to-one basis with a T.A. or in a small group.

For example, I have a social skills groups, where we discuss challenging situations and try to practice them in their day to day school life. Some students are unable to take turns, start conversations, or understand the cues of when it is their turn to speak. Removing them from class for a more tailored approach helps improve their social confidence and self-esteem.

We run a number of interventions in my school but the best of all is our functional skills group. This intervention selects students who are performing significantly below the average grade for their age, and we focus our work to ensure they improve in that area.

3. What made you decide to do this role?

I studied PE and Sport at University with the intentions of becoming a qualified PE teacher. Once I finished University, I decided to gain experience through a teaching assistant agency. I became a Teaching Assistant and worked my way up the ladder to where I am now. 

4. How did you get into the role? e.g. training, work experience, volunteering…

I applied with a Teaching Assistant Agency called Strategy. You don't need any qualifications or training to be teaching assistant before you apply - you get 'on the job' training instead.

A number of the new Teaching Assistants at my school had little to no experience before they started as you don't need any qualifications.

5. What’s the best thing about the role?

Seeing our students learn life skills, and the pure joy they experience when they have the light bulb moment. Nurturing and guiding our Special Educational Needs students to reach their full potential makes the job worthwhile.

6. What’s the worst thing about the role?

The pay or the administrative paperwork. We hate Ofsted!

7. What advice do you have for someone wanting to do the same role?

To only pursue a role within Special Educational Needs if you are passionate about the job and not bothered about the money. The students need our full attention otherwise we hinder the opportunity for them to be the best version of themselves.

8. Are there any Brightsparks courses that you think would be useful to someone wanting to do the role?

Many! All of these would be useful:

Essential Skills for Working With Children and Young People

Developing Emotional Resilience in Children & Young People

Managing Challenging Behaviour

Understanding Trauma and Attachment

Staying Safe Online

We're always looking for more inspiring people to interview for this series. Whatever your voluntary or paid role, our readers would love to hear about it!

Please get in touch to share your story.