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Special Needs Teaching Assistant Profile


This Section of the site details information that you might find useful if you are looking to secure employment or require further details regarding working as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant. This page details the following Information:-

  • Finding Suitable Work as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant
  • Working Duties Expected
  • Hours and Environment
  • Working Skills Required
  • Training Requirements
  • Salary Expectations
  • Trade Information
  • Other useful Special Needs Teaching Assistant Work Information

Finding Suitable Work

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Working Duties Expected

Special needs teaching assistants help teachers in schools, by providing classroom support to pupils with a wide range of severe learning, physical or behavioural difficulties. There is a variety of job titles, including: special needs classroom assistant, learning support assistant, non-teaching support staff, support worker and special needs assistant.

Some assistants work with pupils with profound, severe, or multiple learning disabilities. Some of these pupils may also have physical disabilities and/or other complex medical conditions. Other assistants work with pupils with visual impairment, provide sign language support to hearing-impaired students, or work with autistic pupils.

The work involves helping pupils to achieve their learning goals, under the supervision of the class teacher. Other duties depend on the assistant's particular job, the type and severity of the pupils' disabilities and the age of the children they work with, but may include:

  • working to improve students' independent living skills
  • supporting pupils in social activities and outings
  • assisting pupils during music therapy or other types of therapy sessions
  • attending to pupils' physical needs.

Work could be in special schools, or working with an individual pupil in a mainstream class. Some special schools take pupils up to the age of 19.

Many other teaching assistants in mainstream schools are employed to provide literacy and/or numeracy support to pupils with less severe special educational needs, or to provide general assistance to a class teacher see Teaching Assistant.

Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) is a new job role that will be available in England from Spring 2004. HTLAs will work under the direction and supervision of qualified teachers, to provide them with additional support. Duties could include working as a specialist assistant for a subject or department, contributing to lesson planning or developing support materials, or supervising a class.

Hours and Environment

Full-time special needs teaching assistants normally work school hours, Monday to Friday. They usually only work during term-time but may sometimes have to be at school outside these times for training. Many teaching assistants work part-time.

Some special schools are residential and assistants working in this type of school may have to work a mixture of shifts over seven days a week.

Most of their time is spent indoors in classrooms and other parts of the school. They may sometimes work outdoors, for instance, on playground duty or on a school outing.

Skills and Interests

To be a special needs teaching assistant you should:

  • enjoy working with children, and respect children of all abilities and from all social and cultural backgrounds
  • be committed to working with pupils with special educational needs
  • be interested in children's education
  • be able to build good relationships with children, their parents and carers, and with teachers and other professionals such as speech therapists or arts therapists
  • be able to work well under the supervision of a teacher and enjoy working as part of a team
  • have good literacy and numeracy skills
  • have a responsible attitude
  • be patient but firm when necessary
  • have lots of energy and a good sense of humour.

For some jobs it may also be an advantage to have additional skills such as willingness to help with pupils' personal care needs, fluency in community languages or the ability to communicate in sign language.


To be a special needs teaching assistant you must be at least 18. Entry requirements vary between schools. There are no set minimum academic requirements, as personal qualities and experience of working with children - paid or voluntary - are usually as important as qualifications. There is no upper age limit to starting work as a special needs teaching assistant, and many schools prefer older entrants.

Some jobs working with children with disabilities ask for a nursery nursing qualification. For details of the various qualifications and their entry requirements, see: Nursery Nurse.

Some jobs involving working with hearing-impaired pupils may require you to have the Council for Advancement in Communication with Deaf People (CACDP) Stage 1 Certificate in British Sign Language.

Foundation and Advanced Modern Apprenticeships (MAPPs) in nursery nursing may be available for people aged 16-24.
For details see: MAPPs (England); Skillseekers MAPPs (Scotland); National Traineeships MAPPs (Wales); and MAPPs (Northern Ireland).


Once you start work as a special needs teaching assistant your employer will train you. In mainstream schools in England there is nationally-approved induction training for teaching assistants.

You may also work towards a qualification. Some of the qualifications for mainstream teaching assistants include optional units on working with pupils with disabilities. Other qualifications dealing in more depth with working with learning disabled pupils include:

NCFE Special Needs Assistant Certificate
NOCN/City and Guilds (3135) Working With People Who Have Learning Disabilities.
Local education authorities, some colleges, and charities or disability organisations may provide additional in-service training relating to particular types of disability or learning difficulty. Your employer will usually arrange this training.

You may also find it useful to undertake extra training in any communication skills that might be relevant to your job, such as:

CACDP qualifications, including Deaf Awareness; British Sign Language; Deafblind Awareness; Deafblind Support Work
Makaton or forms other sign-supported English
Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) training in visual awareness and Braille.

Experienced staff may also be able to study for a foundation degree for teaching assistants. Some universities and colleges run courses that can last between two and four years part-time. Foundation degrees may be accepted as an entry qualification for teacher training in the future. Entry requirements can vary - you should contact course providers for details.

From May 2004, experienced teaching assistants will be able to apply for Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) training. After an initial assessment, those who meet the required standards will take a three-day fast-track programme to gain HLTA status. Those who do not yet meet the standards can undertake a 50-day training programme, combining centre-based learning, in-school activity and e-learning. A greater range of shorter, more flexible tailored training routes will also be introduced over the next year. It is also likely that many of the foundation degrees will include accreditation to HLTA status. More information about the standards, assessment and training is available at the Teacher Training Agencys new HLTA website.


You can work as a special needs teaching assistant throughout the UK, with pupils of all age ranges in special schools or in mainstream or independent schools. Some special schools are for pupils with a specific disability, while others are organised according to the severity of learning difficulty. Local authorities run most special schools, while others are run by disability organisations or charities. Vacancies are advertised in the local press, and local authority vacancies are advertised through the Local Government Careers website.

There is a move towards integrating pupils with disabilities into mainstream education, so this is likely to increase the number of opportunities for assistants to support individual pupils with special needs in mainstream schools.

You could use your experience to go into other work with children, such as day nursery, playgroup or play leader work, childminding or residential childcare. Depending on your experience and interests, you could also consider moving into other work such as communication support worker, speech and language therapy assistant or physiotherapy assistant. You may need to study for additional qualifications.

HLTAs will be employed by many schools in England from Spring 2004 schools are not obliged to offer the role, but the Teacher Training Agency envisages that 20,000 people will progress to HLTA status by 2007. With the right qualifications you could apply to train as a teacher.

Annual Income

The annual income section is intended as a guideline only. There is no national pay scale and wage rates are set by each Local Education Authority.

The full-time rate for new teaching assistants starts at around £9,574 a year.
The amount generally increases each year up to about £12,390 to £13,500 a year.
Higher Level Teaching Assistants are likely to be paid on a higher scale.

Further information


Local Government NTO*
Layden House
76-86 Turnmill Street
Tel: 020 7296 6503

Higher Level Teaching Assistants

National Association for Special Educational Needs (NASEN)
4-5 Amber Business Village
Amber Close
B77 4RP

Council for Advancement in Communication with Deaf People (CACDP)
Durham University Science Park
Block 4
Stockton Road
Tel: 0191 383 1155

Department of Education and Skills (resources for SEN support workers, parents and teachers)

Other Useful Special Needs Teaching Assistant Work Information

We have a section available at this site on Special Needs Teaching Assistant job interview tips that you may find of interest should you wish to brush up your skills in this area and we also have number of career articles that may also be of use to you from within our guides and documents section.

Locations where we feature Jobs include:-
Aberdeen, Berkshire, Aberdeen, Bath, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Cardiff, Central London, Cheltenham, Cornwall, Coventry, Derby, Devon, Docklands, Dorset, Dundee, Durham, East Midlands, East Sussex, Edinburgh, Essex, Glasgow, Gloucester, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leeds, Leicester, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Midlands and in various parts of the West Midlands

Details of other Special Needs Teaching Assistant Jobs can also be found in other UK wide areas including:-
Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Norfolk, North London, North Midlands, Northampton, Northamptonshire, Northern Ireland, Northumberland, Norwich, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Plymouth, Salisbury, Scotland, Sheffield, Shropshire, Somerset, South East, South London, South Midlands, Southampton, Staffordshire Surrey, Swansea, Swindon, Telford, Wales, Warwickshire, West End, West London, West Midlands, Worcestershire, York and throughout Yorkshire.

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