Is there any other profession that is arrived at from such varied routes?

The TA was first introduced in the 1960s and the original ‘mum’s army’ was called helpers, aides and auxiliaries. Working at a school enabled them to earn money (often at the same school as their children) and to be able to look after their children during the school holidays.

These days TAs are more likely to have formal qualifications and it is not uncommon for graduates and qualified teachers to choose a career in a support role. Schools still dictate their own entry requirements, a GCSE in English and maths being the minimum, a teaching assistant qualification preferable. With over 271,000 full time equivalent (FTE) teaching assistants in England alone, TAs are widely recognised as a valuable resource in schools.*

Is there any other role quite like it? Working on language skills with year 1, helping to coordinate sports day, walking a class to swimming lessons, playground duty, lunch duty, breakfast club, homework club, wiping tears, mending grazed knees and knocking up a quick peasant costume for a year 5 child who WANTED TO BE A KNIGHT! (Did I mention a sense of humour is a prerequisite?) We’re a resilient bunch too; the job is fantastic, but relentless and will sap all your energy (and time) if you let it. The ones who stay are really committed to making a difference!

I have worked with dozens of TAs/learning support assistants (LSAs) and each one has arrived at their role from a different beginning. Some by chance, some because they have a child with additional needs, some as a stopgap, some as a steppingstone to be coming a teacher and more. While not always possessing a string of professional qualifications, the TA is a skilled practitioner with a true understanding of the needs of their pupils and a desire to develop their own skills and confidence. All the more frustrating that professional development opportunities are often limited and usually expensive.

Take a look at Abi Joachim’s article on page 14 and the TA support network she coordinates in Suffolk. How brilliant would a TA network have been when I was working in schools? What I would have given for the chance to share good practice, access training and the opportunity to bolster my own and other’s confidence AND to bring back new ideas and strategies to my setting.

Other UK TA networks

A bit of research tells me that more TA networks are being formed – these are the networks I have found – but there is clearly room for expansion.

North Yorkshire TA Network:

Twitter: @YorkshireTAs


Teaching Assistant Network Hub:

Twitter: @UKTAHub

Did you become a TA via an unconventional route? Are you involved in the setting up of a TA network? If so we would love to feature your story. Please get in touch with me at:


Social media groups

The Link Facebook Group:

County Durham TA Activist Assoc: @county_assoc

Teaching Assistants UK:

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