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LEARNING SUPPORT OFFICER COURSES: A DETAILED GUIDE

Learning Support Officer Courses: Your Guide

Learning Support Officers predominantly work in schools to support teachers with the implementation of learning programs. This includes supporting students' learning, development and behaviour. The term 'Learning Support Officer' or LSOs for short, is the official title for a teacher aide, teacher assistant or education assistant in NSW who works with students with disabilities and disorders.


According to the NSW government Learning Support officers '...provide assistance to students with disability and additional learning and support needs enrolled in special schools, specialist support classes in regular schools and regular classes.'

Group of young girls in blue uniform and a learning support officer in class eagerly engaged in an activity

Learning Support Officers support students with disabilities in mainstream and special needs school.


Learning Support Officers (aka teacher aides or teacher assistants) can undertake a range of tasks in a school. Their primary function is supporting teachers and students in a range of classroom activities. These include supporting reading and writing lessons and other academic support tasks. They may also perform non-instructional tasks such as assisting with administration, logistics, preparation, cleaning and many other tasks.


Thinking about becoming a learning support officer? Check out our research-based, best practice nationally recognised Learning Support Officer courses:

Learning support officers are effectively teacher’s assistants or teacher’s aides employed in schools in New South Wales. It is an official title of sorts - the general public still use terms such as teacher aide and teacher assistant. The concept of the LSO differentiates itself from the traditional teacher aide in that the LSO's primary responsibility is to the student and not the teacher (for admin support as was once the case). In Victoria, the equivalent to the LSO is the integration aide. In WA they are called EAs or Education Assistants. In SA they are called SSOs or Schools Support Officers.


It is interesting to note that learning support officers can take on a range of different roles and positions. It is a broad-based classification used by schools for people who assist teachers and students in or outside of the classroom and predominantly with learning activities and programs that involve work with students with special needs. For example, you may find a learning support officer in a range of different programs such as academic support for the gifted and talented, literacy programs, numeracy programs, so on and so forth.


They may also be used in special needs schools or mainstream classrooms especially in younger grades. Almost all learning support officers work with special needs students. To become a learning support officer you will need to complete a learning support officer course such as the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support.


In this article we do our best, based on years of experience and thousands of graduates, to answer all of the common questions you may have about becoming and working as a learning support officer including courses for LSOs, how to become an LSO, the definition of an LSO and so forth.

Question 1: What is a Learning Support Officer?

An LSO, or a learning support officer, is quite simply a teacher’s assistant or teacher’s aide. They are also called integration aides in Victoria, education assistants in WA and school support officers (or SSOs) in South Australia. Typically speaking the term teacher’s assistant or teacher’s aide is the most common term used by people who are not currently employed in the industry. We therefore use the term ‘teacher aide’ so everyone knows what we are referring to.


Learning support officers, or LSOs, as the name suggests, assist and support students with their learning. They are most often utilized to support students who have been diagnosed (and hence receive funding) with a disability or disorder - usually a complex need too (multiple-disabilities, comorbidities, behavioural and neurological challenges etc.). What do we mean by assisting students or supporting students with their learning? Well that really depends on the teacher, the classroom, the student (such as whether they have a disability, disorder or difficulty), and the topic or subject being delivered.


One of the main tasks that learning support officers undertake is supporting students with disabilities (such as Autism and Foetal alcohol syndrome) with activities such as reading, writing, pronunciation, spelling, grammar, and completing activities as per the teacher’s direction. However, LSOs will also assist with other tasks including administration and logistical support. Some will even undertake instructional design and development, curriculum development and facilitate mini classes. You will study and learn all of these topics in your research-based nationally recognised learning support officer course with FTTA.


Female LSO sits at desk with equipment for learning including pegs and toys.

Learning Support Officers work in schools to support learning, development and behaviour.


Learning support officers are also all-rounders who help out in the classroom to ensure the smooth operation of the learning program. When you apply for a position, the job description form and other details provided by the school will give you a good indication of what is expected. For example, a learning support officer may work in a lower primary school year supporting one or more students with a disability (in a mainstream classroom). They will also assist other students and circulate from time-to-time around the room. Another learning support officer, however, might work in a specific program such as literacy or numeracy. Another LSO again (in the same school), may work with high-needs (high-needs generally means that the student requires full-time support). To become an LSO, you will need to learn how to work in these environments by completing a nationally recognised education support course.


One of the issues commonly noted by academics, researchers and trainers is 'role stretch'. Role stretch is a big problem with learning support officers. Role stretch simply means that the number of tasks, responsibilities and roles is ever-expanding. For example, you may initially be hired to work in a year 1 class with a particular student but quickly find that you are expected to support several students with very different needs. While role stretch is a problem in one sense, it can also be an opportunity at the same time. For staff that are flexible and able to adapt, role stretch may be a blessing as it provides variety and challenge. Again, these are the essential skills that you will learn in your learning support officer course with FTTA.


Defining exactly what teacher's aides are expected to do in the classroom has been the topic of a number of studies and academic research especially in the past decade or two. Some key findings of these studies are shown below:


One study from 2018 investigated the effectiveness of teacher's aides in 105 schools and found that trained teacher aide are much more effective especially when working closely and in cooperation with the teacher.


Other studies such as this one in 2016 found that 'students with disabilities in full-day kindergarten have higher reading and mathematics outcomes at the end of kindergarten when the classroom has a teacher aide.'


A Victorian study said that ‘one of the major roles of the teacher aide and the four main areas where teacher aides are focused on are a) inclusion in the school community, (b) curriculum, (c) classroom management, and (d) student support.'

Question 2. How do I become a Learning Support Officer?

students in class learning to become a learning support officer

Most students become an LSO by completing a relevant learning support officer course. FTTA students pictured in class.


The most common pathway to becoming a learning support officer is to complete a nationally recognised learning support officer course and to obtain a qualification. There are two nationally recognised qualifications - the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support and the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. These are the qualification that schools, school managers, teachers and your colleagues will expect that you hold; they have become the default standard for learning support officers in Australia.


You will also need to develop your resume, compile copies of your certificates and (preferably) complete a range of online short courses. Completing short courses gives you a leg-up in the job market as it shows that you are continually improving and eager to learn and improve. For those enrolled with FTTA, you will complete a range of short courses as part of your learning support officer course. Most short courses take between 30-90 minutes and they are generally not that challenging. You can find plenty of free online courses with a few Google searches.


Before reading further, we recommend reading this free article: How to become a teacher aide or this article: Six qualifications and skills for teacher aides


Question 3: Are there different types of Learning Support Officers?

There are a number of different types of learning support officers as we have touched on earlier in this article. The majority of learning support officers work with students with special needs students – Autism (ASD), Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Down Syndrome, Dyslexia, Global Developmental Delay, and a range of physical, neurological and learning disorders. In fact, the majority of funding to schools for learning support officers is due to special needs students being enrolled in that school.


Special needs learning support officers often work in a special need's schools. This is a type of school (often located within the larger school of a similar name), or it is a school on its own that is devoted to supporting students with special needs. Quite often students in these schools have high special needs that require one-on-one support. This means that they need ongoing and regular support and generally cannot access learning activities, socialise or complete activities of daily living (ADLs) without adult assistance to some degree. Special needs schools also have a range of specialist materials, support services, resources and technologies. These technologies are often in the form of assistive technologies. Assistive technologies are devices, equipment or software designed to assist people to undertake activities of daily living such as learning, socialising and communicating. A hearing aid is an example of assistive technology.


LSOs can work in specialised programs with indigenous or aboriginal students, in regional and rural areas, in high schools, primary schools or in libraries and may take on several part time roles within a school. They may work in traditional classroom roles, in administration, home economics or undertake range of other tasks as needed by the school. For example, some boarding schools have learning support officers who undertake a range of tasks on weekends and outside of typical school hours. Agricultural schools for example, can employ learning support officers to support agriculturally based activities.


Generally, people employed in these areas have specialist skills and experience. As you can see there are lots of different types of learning support officers, however the great majority are employed to support students with special needs. Regardless of the type, name or school, all are required to complete the same nationally recognised learning support officer course such as the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support.

Question 4. What is the best LSO course for me?

Generally speaking, we advise students to complete the highest-level learning support officer course that they are comfortable to undertake. This is normally the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support unless you are a school leaver, ESL or have a learning disability in which case the lower level course may be suitable. The reason this qualification is recommended is that it is the highest available learning support officer course. This will give you an advantage in the job market and means that you don’t need to study two courses (unless completing the Teacher Aide Combo – which we also recommend for efficiency and cost savings).


Learning Support Officer Stands in front of colourful work samples made by students.

Another happy camper finishes their course. Picture of FTTA student on placement. Could this be you?


The CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support is considered the qualification for students who wish to work with special needs whether in mainstream or special needs schools. Is should be noted however that this qualification is not a disability qualification per say, although you will learn a lot of skills and knowledge relevant to working with students with disabilities.


In all cases learning support officers are under the instruction and supervision of a qualified teacher. If you intend on working with special needs, then certainly this is the qualification for you. If however you intend on working in mainstream, such as in a kindergarten or primary school, you may potentially consider enrolling in the lower level learning support officer course: the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support. This course may be a little easier however it takes approximately the same amount of time as the higher-level CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. It should be noted however that while being slightly more difficult, the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support is not beyond the reach of the majority of students. This is in fact our most popular course and has a completion rate of over 80%.


A lot of students also choose to enrol in the Teacher Aide Combo. This is very popular due to the fact that it enables students to complete both the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support and the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support in one streamlined, cost-effective program. Schools really like the fact that students hold both qualifications because it indicates a more in-depth understanding of your role, classroom practices and background knowledge. In other words, two qualifications are better than one. It will also give you a head start in the job market and help to establish your permanent place in the school community.


So which learning support officer or LSO course/qualification is best for you? We recommend the Teacher Aide Combo first and foremost. This ensures that you will be confident in your skills and abilities, and it gives you a leg-up in the job market. By completing the Teacher Aide Combo, you will also know that you aren’t missing out on any key pieces of information, strategies or techniques found in one course but not the other. You will be a more well-rounded LSO with a very solid educational background for you to begin your career.


If you are ESL (English as a Second Language) and are not that confident in your English skills, you may consider the lower level qualification. However, you should speak with your preferred provider first as they will give you the best advice.

Question 5. How much does a Learning Support Officer courses cost?

The cost of enrolling in a learning support officer course varies from provider to provider. Please check our website for current information regarding the cost of our LSO courses. We always like to remind students to consider the fact that the cost of your course is only a small portion of the total cost your studies. For instance, be careful that you don’t sign up for a course that has ongoing costs such as additional textbook costs, unit by unit fees, administration fees, placement fees, etc.


Hint: Ensure that you enrol with a provider who visits you in the workplace. This is absolutely essential in our opinion. Even the best students have minor issues from time to time. These issues are very easily sorted when a trainer visits the school. It’s also important that your trainer observes you in order to provide feedback about your performance.

Question 6. Are Learning Support Officer jobs hard to find?

Female learning support officer in front of student desks and chairs in her classroom

LSOs often find work where they complete their placement. Pictured: FTTA student on placement.


Generally speaking, learning support officer jobs are not hard to find provided you have completed a reputable nationally recognised learning support officer course. You will need a working with children check and a professional resume. Obviously, we can never guarantee that any of our students will find work, however there are thousands of schools in NSW alone and almost every school has a few dozen learning support officers.


Additionally, many of these learning support officers are part-time meaning more positions are available broadly speaking. Many people work part-time in order to supplement their income, for the social aspect and to add a challenging, rewarding career to their resume that suits their lifestyle and family commitments. Many people like working in schools as learning support officers as it fits in well with their family commitments (starting time, finishing time, school holidays etc.).


Don't forget to read our article about how to become a teacher aide here.


If you are hoping to work as a learning support officer in a particular year group or school, you may struggle to find work initially. This is because the position may not become available for quite some time - if ever at all. However, if you broaden your horizons and consider areas that you may not have considered before such as high school and special needs, you are much more likely to be successful.


This is especially the case if have the right demeanour and personality, hold a nationally recognised qualification and put your name down at 20 or 30 schools within easy driving range. This is the most common way that our students become contract, full-time or permanent employees; they begin as a relief or casual employee and pick up long-term contracts when they become available.


Certainly it’s possible to walk straight into a full-time permanent position, however in our experience it’s not that common – schools prefer to get to know people before hiring them and hence, causal and relief is a popular first step (actually the first step is enrolling in a reputable learning support officer course).


If you have read this far you are undoubtedly interested in working as a learning support officer. Think about where would like to work, what school, which age group etc. You can search online for schools in your area such as by using this government site for public schools, this site for independent schools and this site for rural schools.

Question 7. How much do Learning Support Officers get paid?

Full-time learning support officers are paid on average $1000 per week or $30 per hour. Full time for most learning support officers is calculated at 32 hours per week. You may have seen some sources on the internet claiming that learning support officers earn between $23 and $28 on average. We believe this is incorrect due to the fact that the majority of LSOs work with special needs; special needs LSOs are paid a higher salary and therefore, the true average is closer to the top of the pay scale around the $30 per hour mark.


You can learn more about teacher aide pay, allowances, and benefits by reading this article: How much do teacher aides get paid?


Learning support officers can also be paid small additional amounts for things such as overtime allowances, travel and meals when on camps, and other allowances. There is also the standard personal leave which incorporates leave for illness and medical issues, care of children etc. Other types of leave may be available such as cultural leave, maternity leave, leave for military service and for training (such as a nationally recognised qualification). All staff, other than casual are eligible for annual leave and accrue long service leave.

Question 8: What is the difference between LSOs and teacher’s aides?

As discussed earlier these two terms have the same meaning in almost all cases. An LSO or learning support officer supports students particularly in primary schools and high schools and those with special needs in a variety of different tasks. Learning support officer is a term used mainly by people already working in the industry and you will see it used official documents such as job advertisements for example. The general public normally use the term teacher’s aide (or teacher’s assistant) although use of this older term can sometimes be frowned upon by school staff and is considered derogatory.


Teacher’s aides or teacher’s assistants is a broad term encompassing a vast array of different roles and responsibilities of those who work under the direction of a teacher in a school. Learning support officers typically undertake more specialised tasks such as working closely with students with complex needs including students with multiple disabilities, high needs and learning or behavioural problems.

Question 9. What is the hardest thing about being an Learning Support Officer?

Female LSO standing in front of art samples made by students during her placement.

FTTA student on placement. Learn the skills and knowledge required to effectively contribute to student learning and behaviour by enrolling in a research based course with FTTA.


Obviously, the answer to this question will depend on who you talk to. If you ask an accountant what the hardest thing is about being an accountant, one accountant will say something different to another accountant. If you ask a truck driver what the hardest part is about being a truck driver – he or she would say something different to the next truck driver.


Many people however will tell you that supporting challenging students such as those with behavioural issues is probably one of the more stressful parts of their job. This is why it is important to enrol with an experienced and reputable provider who will equip you with the tools required to manage challenging situations - Not all learning support officer courses are the same.

Question 10. Can I study a learning support officer course online?

Student can choose to study a learning support officer course online with most providers who offer these courses. Learning support officer courses can either be the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support or the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. Alternatively, many students complete the Teacher Aide Combo which is unique to FTTA.


Studying online no longer means that you are sitting in a dark and dingy basement for 10 hours a day in front of a computer screen. Online actually means that you stay in regular contact with you trainer, complete a work placement (which certainly isn’t an online component), attend live webinars, watch pre-recoded webinars as if you were actually in the class, keep in contact with your trainer via email or phone, and a range of other similar activities. It certainly does not mean that you are studying all on your own with no support (at least with good providers - you get what you pay for).


Don't forget to read our article about studying a teacher aide course online by clicking here.


Generally speaking, students who enrol online are relatively independent and work through the material at a pace suitable to them. This is why online is so popular especially for mature adults, who have the motivation to study but can’t afford to be in class every day due to family, work or other commitments.

Question 11. Are Learning Support Officer courses government funded?

Please check FTTA’s website for the latest information regarding learning support officer courses that are government funded. At the time of writing there was no government funding available for learning support officer courses through Fast Track Training Australia in NSW. TAFE does provide some funding although the cost is about the same as FTTA for most students. This information changes regularly so again, see our main course pages for accurate, current information.

Question 12: Can I study an LSO course at TAFE?

Learning support officer courses at TAFE are available throughout New South Wales at various campuses. TAFEs are suitable for young students and high school leavers who wish to be in class 3-5 days per week for 1-4 semesters.

Question 13: Are the assessments difficult and how long do they take to complete?

young students including twins in blue uniform sitting on floor smiling

Motivation and engagement are key behaviour management strategies you that will learn in your course.


Generally speaking, we advise that the assessments in our nationally recognised learning support officer courses and qualifications are not overly difficult. In comparison to courses with a technical component such as accounting or IT, education support courses are relatively easy for most students.


Generally speaking, students who have worked with or raised children shouldn’t have too many problems with this course. Everyone is different however and if you are concerned please speak to one of our friendly student advisors.


If you are stressing out about returning to study or you have never studied before, remember that everyone is in the same boat - the average age of our students is 37. Your trainer can easily be contacted for support and assistance at any stage. The biggest hurdle is getting started.


Most of the assessments are comprised of short answer activities, mini projects and case studies. There are no long essays or reports.

Question 14. How are Learning Support Officer courses structured?

As you can see below the LSO courses at FTTA is structured using a clustered model of delivery. This is done to prevent unnecessary repetition. Even if you don’t enrol with FTTA, we highly recommend that you enrol with a provider that offers a clustered model of training and assessment. This is because the course is likely to take a significantly longer amount of time to complete when studied on a unit by unit basis (and unit by unit is considered my many experts to be poor practice).


As you can see from the examples below. There are 17 units however there are only 5 clusters in the CHC40213 Certificate IV in education support. This saves time, money, stress and effort. An important part of your course is the work placement which we will discuss in the next question.


Clusters in the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support


Cluster 1 – Health & Safety

Cluster 2 - Literacy & Numeracy

Cluster 3 – Behaviour Management

Cluster 4 – Disability

Cluster 5 – Diversity


Question 15. Is there a work placement component?

Yes. All providers in Australia have a minimum work placement component for the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support and the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support of 100 hours.


The work placement is normally completed in a local school and quite often leads to casual, relief or contract work especially if you do well during your time at the school. If you are concerned about the work placement requirements, please speak to one of our student advisors or read the information provided on our website under your preferred course (or the student handbook).

Question 16. How can I enrol and begin FTTA's learning support officer course?

The enrolment process is very simple: complete the enrolment form on our website by clicking on the ‘Enrol’ tab at the top of this page and then fill in the form with your details. Depending on your situation you may also need to submit a concession card, identification and other documents.


Generally speaking, the process takes between 15 to 30 minutes from start to finish.


It normally takes between a few hours and a few days, depending on how busy we are and how many other enrolments we are processing at the time, to respond to your application and hopefully accept you as a student. Once you receive an acceptance letter you can start pretty much straight away, including contacting your trainer, attending workshops and registering for live webinars.

Summary

We have discussed in some detail, various aspects of working as a learning support officer particularly as it applies in NSW - this is however relevant to most of Australia. Learning support officers or LSOs are known as teacher’s aides or teacher’s assistants in most other states. Learning support officers generally work with students with special needs including those with multiple disabilities, or in specialist programs such as ‘running reading’.


To become a learning support officer, you will need to complete a nationally recognised learning support officer course such as those offered by FTTA. Obtaining work as an LSO particularly on a relief or causal basis, is generally not that difficult for most graduates of a reputable CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support program or the more advanced CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. If you have further questions relating to your specific situation, please do not hesitate to contact FTTA.


About the author

Adam Green is an advisor to government, a former teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.

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