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TEACHER'S ASSISTANT COURSES: A DETAILED GUIDE

Teacher’s Assistant Courses: A Detailed Guide

teacher assistant planning a learning activity

Teacher’s assistants work in various schools such as high schools and primary schools.


For those considering this profession, this article will answer some of the most common questions including:

  • What you need to do to become a teacher’s assistant
  • Different types of teacher’s assistants in Australia
  • Your options as far as completing a teacher’s assistant courses in Western Australia
  • Other common questions we get regarding this course and industry

Teacher’s assistants are commonly referred to as teacher’s aides, school support officers, education assistants, learning support officers, or any one of a number of other terms commonly used in different parts of Australia.


If you are looking for work as a teacher’s assistant, your first port of call is to find a provider who can assist you with completing the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support or the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. These two courses are the nationally recognised teacher’s assistant qualifications that are required by schools. This includes schools such as:

  • Primary schools
  • High schools
  • Kindergartens
  • Special needs schools
  • Public schools
  • Private schools
  • Religious based schools
  • Specialist schools and programs

What is a Teacher’s Assistant?

You may have an idea in your mind about what a Teacher’s assistant does day to day. You may initially think that teacher’s assistants are employed to assist the teacher. While this is partly true, teacher’s assistants these days are expected to undertake a whole range of really important tasks. For example, they may assist the teacher with administrative tasks such as marking students work, ordering supplies and keeping track of student’s attendance. It really depends on your teacher and your school. In addition however, teacher’s assistants also spend a lot of time helping and supports students with learning – what is known as instructional tasks.


A key task of almost all teacher’s assistant is to work in conjunction with the teacher to manage and guide student behaviour. Behaviour management as it is known in the industry, is a very important task. It essentially means ensuring that all students adhere to classroom rules, school rules, that they stay on task and are not distracting other students.


This means for example, that students aren’t throwing things, calling out, swearing, hitting other children and so forth. On occasion you may be required to assist the teacher with more serious behaviour management issues - also known as challenging behaviours such as temper tantrums. While rare - it does happen; this is why it’s important to complete your qualification with a reputable provider, who will give you the skills and knowledge to successfully manage and contribute to the challenging task of behaviour management.


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


Another study, published in the International Journal of Inclusive Education, stated that teacher’s aides have a ‘pivotal, complex and ambiguous role’ in terms of supporting students with disabilities.


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's aide.’

How do I become a Teacher’s Assistant?

To become a teacher’s assistant the first thing you will need to do is enrol in a nationally recognised qualification such as the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support or the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. Almost everyone who decides to become a teacher’s assistant enrols in one of these two qualifications (or both with the teacher’s aide combo).


The CHC40214 Certificate IV in Education Support is the higher-level qualification and is generally known to be the required course for those seeking or intending to work with special needs. Special needs includes disabilities, disorders and difficulties such as ADHD, Autism or ASD and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Are there different types of Teacher’s Assistants?

There are many different types of teacher’s assistants as they can undertake a range of different activities, roles and responsibilities within a school. For example, if you are working in a year 3 class with a student that has ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) you will be undertaking tasks such as assisting with social and literacy support. In broad terms literacy support is helping a student learn how to read, write, spell, use grammar and sound out words – commonly known as phonics.


If however, you are working in home economics you will take on a range of tasks such as conducting stocktakes and helping students with cooking and cleaning. Some teacher’s assistants also work in the school library. They may also work in specific and specialist programs such as with disadvantaged students, sport, music, art or alternative programs in year 11 and 12.


The majority of teacher’s assistants work with special needs students. Some schools also have special needs centres/school. A special needs centre or a special needs school is a school that specialises in supporting students with disabilities who generally require one on one and ongoing support. Quite often these schools have many more teacher’s assistants than teachers and hence are a good place to look for work.

What is the best teacher’s assistant course for me?

FTTA student in a placement

An FTTA student on placement in a primary school.

There are two teacher’s assistant courses to choose from. Note that some providers only offer one course - normally the lower level qualification, so you may be limited as far as your options depending on where you choose to study.


At FTTA, we offer both qualifications and there are no minimum entry requirements for either. Students will need to have a certain level of English skills in order to begin the course, however this is generally not a problem for the majority of people. If you have an additional need such as a disability, disorder or if English is not your first language, we recommend speaking to a student advisor for further advice.


If you’re intending to work in special needs, the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support is the right course for you. This course is predominately aimed at teacher’s assistants working with special needs students. However, even if you are not intending on working with students with additional needs, we recommend this course for several reasons:

  • your resume looks better with a higher qualification
  • you can apply for any support role in a school
  • you have the confidence of knowing that you hold the highest-level teacher’s assistant qualification available in Australia
  • it takes about the same amount of time and effort to complete
  • it isn’t that much of jump in difficulty from the lower level course

The CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support is the broad-based course that covers various aspects of working as a teacher’s assistant in mainstream positions with a little exposure to special needs. You will cover very similar topics in the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support, with the added requirement of working with students who have disabilities and disorders. While the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support course contains some special needs content, the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support is a specialist qualification for working with disabilities including multiple disabilities.

How much do Teacher’s Assistant courses cost?

At the moment there is no government funding in Western Australia for teacher’s assistant courses. Some funding is however available for teacher’s assistant courses in other states (if you happen to reside in Queensland for example). Funding changes from time to time, so it is best to speak to an FTTA student advisor.


Even though no government funding is available in WA at present, we advise students to carefully consider their options and not to simply choose the cheapest available provider. It is very important to invest wisely in your education, just as you would any other major investment like a car or shares. Ensure that your provider visits you in the workplace, has a good reputation, you can call and speak to trainers easily, you can meet with trainers, they offer live webinars, and in general you feel comfortable with them. Another issue we see quite often is students enrolling with very cheap courses with the expectation that they are saving money. This may not be the case if for example, due to less support being available, you take a lot longer to complete the course. Also bear in mind that if you are applying for competitive positions, the better the reputation of the provider on your certificate the better your chances of being successful.

Are Teacher’s Assistant jobs hard to find?

There are over 1000 schools in Western Australia. Many schools have 20+ teacher’s assistants; some have even more. Because of this, we believe it is relatively easy to find work, provided you hold a nationally recognised qualification and are suited to the role.


Special needs schools are always asking us if we have students who want to do some relief work. Relief work is the best way to get your foot into the door and it commonly leads to more permanent positions – schools like to hire who they know.

How much do Teacher’s Assistants get paid?

Teacher’s assistants are paid approximately $1000 a week or $30 an hour. You may be thinking $30 x 38 hours is not $1000. This is because most teacher’s assistants are employed for approximately 32.5 hours per week. This is the case because most teacher’s assistants start at approximately 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning and finish at approximately 3:00, 3:15 or 3:30 in the afternoon. This depends on the school and what they would prefer you to do. Some schools are happy for you to leave work almost straight after the bell whereas others set a time. You shouldn’t be rushing out the door at the same time as students as this doesn’t look that good professionally speaking.


Many teacher’s assistants also do additional work at home such as on school holidays, although this is generally not required and is usually voluntary. Tasks of this nature may include preparing resources and designing activities. The majority of teacher’s assistants however don’t do that much work outside of their allocated roster.


It should be noted that $30 per hour is our guess at how much the average teacher’s assistant is paid. Some online sources indicate that teacher’s assistants are paid significantly less on average than our estimate. We believe that this information is incorrect because the majority of teacher’s assistants work in special needs schools or with special needs students. In fact, probably around 75% - 85% of teacher’s assistants work with special needs to some extent. This therefore means that most (the average) are close to the top of pay scale (and not in the middle).


In almost all states of Australia, teacher’s assistants are paid on a tiered scale. The first level is quite often for teacher’s assistants working in mainstream. This mainly means assisting in lower levels classrooms such as year 1. The next tier is for teacher’s assistants who work with special needs in mainstream (often referred to as an inclusive classroom). The top level is for teacher’s assistants who work with students in special needs schools; they are paid the most.


Some staff may earn additional allowances or be in higher paying positions for various reasons. If you are working in a regional or rural area for example, you will be paid an additional allowance. All (except causal) staff receive leave entitlements such as personal leave and annual leave.

What is the difference between a Teacher’s Assistant and a Teacher Aide?

As we have discussed further up, there are various terms used to describe support staff who work in schools, assisting the teacher with educational activities, supporting students and from time to time undertaking administrative tasks. They can be known as:

  • Teacher’s sides
  • Teacher’s assistants
  • Education assistants
  • School support officers
  • Learning support officers
  • Integration aides

What is the hardest thing about being a Teacher’s Assistant?

This is a very difficult question for us to answer in a few paragraphs. Obviously, it can depend on the class, school, your experience, the quality of your training etc.


As an example, on your work placement you might find that behaviour management is one of the hardest tasks. Behaviour management simply means that you are helping to ensure that children are on track and that they are following the school and classroom rules. Our courses spend a lot of time ensuring that you are fully prepared with all the necessary behaviour management skills and techniques to manage most situations.


Many students enter this industry believing or hoping that they will work in lower primary school and they are somewhat scared of working in a high school. We argue that this is a misconception and high schools are no more challenging.


Bear in mind that high school students are not as scary as they may seem, and the teacher has ultimate responsibility for serious behaviour management issues. In terms of behaviour management, which is probably what scares people the most, high schools don’t really have any more behaviour issues than primary schools. High school students aren’t anywhere near as ‘bad’ as their reputation.

Can I study a Teacher’s Assistant course online?

classroom study is a option

While online is the most popular mode, many students stull prefer at least one day per week in class. FTTA class pictured.


The majority of people study their teacher’s assistant course online. Keep in mind that online does not just mean that students never have contact with a trainer. In fact, this is a common misconception. Online simply means that you are not required to attend a class. This does not mean you cannot attend a class, but it simply means that you are not required to in order to pass your course. Many still choose to attend face to face or online tutorials, webinars etc.


As an online student, you will still have access to a trainer and we highly recommend and counsel students to attend (where possible) as many face to face tutorials, workshops and online webinars as they can. This can help you get the most out of your course and facilitates discussions with fellow students.


Gone are the days when studying online simply meant that you are sitting in a dark and dingy basement for long periods of time. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Online has several advantages especially for busy adult learners. It gives you maximum flexibility to organise your time and meet other commitments such as family and work responsibilities. You can study at a time that suits you. This is the best thing about online - you still complete the same amount of work but often spread out in a personalised schedule. Also, the time it takes to complete your course is completely up to you. You could complete the course in 6 months for example. However, if you are a very busy person with lots of commitments or you are just happy to take it a bit slower, you could complete the course over a longer period of time.

Can I study a Teacher’s Assistant course at TAFE?

We recommend enrolling in a teacher’s assistant course at TAFE if you are under 18 years of age. TAFE specialises in training younger students and they are effectively similar to a high school in many regards. Not all younger students enrol at TAFE. At FTTA for example, we still enrol quite a few younger students including those at high school or who have just recently left high school.


Generally younger students benefit from being in class (emphasis on generally) for the extra support and to ensure that they stay on track. Mature students typically enrol with private providers - the statistics overwhelmingly show that students in their 20s, 30s and 40s enrol with private providers. Private providers like FTTA specialise and cater for adult learners.

Are the assessments difficult?

Generally speaking, the assessments in both of our teacher’s assistants courses are not difficult. There are no essays or long reports. We try to make our courses as practical as possible. Some providers require students write lengthy reports (1000-2000 words) however this method is considered poor assessment design and is becoming less common. It’s important that you ask your provider about the type of assessments you will be required to complete.


You can see several examples below from our courses:


Question 9.

In some schools, staff carry walkie-talkies when supervising students outside of the normal classroom environment. It is important to use these devices appropriately and professionally. Give three examples of when it would be appropriate to use a walkie-talkie.

1.

2.

3.

Case Study 2 - Assistive technology and adjustments to resources

Olivia is deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other ear. You have been asked to do some research into what assistive technology the school could purchase to support Olivia in her learning. What do you recommend and why? List at least 3 products or types of products

How are the Teacher’s Assistant course structured?

Our Teacher’s Assistant courses are structured using clusters of similar units – what is known as clustering. We prefer a clustered method as it saves students a lot of time because most of the units in either course have a significant amount of duplicate content – clustering removes this duplication. A unit by unit program will take you a long time to complete and also means that you are doing the same assessment questions over and over again.


Clusters also closely represent the way in which you are expected to operate as a graduate teacher’s assistant. For example, we combine a number of similar units into one ‘literacy’ cluster. This more closely represents what teacher’s assistants do in the real world – manage multiple tasks at the same time. For example, while supporting literacy, you will also manage small groups. It seems only natural then, to combine these two separate but closely intertwined tasks, into one cluster.

Do Teacher’s Assistant courses have a work placement?

All teacher’s assistant courses have a work placement due to government requirements. This is at least true for the nationally recognised qualifications – some non-accredited programs may not require a placement. The current requirement is for 100 hours in a registered school. You can complete this in a local school in most cases, provided that the school agrees (another reason why it is important to enrol with a reputable provider).


If you have questions regarding the work placement, please consult our student handbook or speak to an FTTA student advisor about your situation.

How long does it take to enrol and start a Teacher’s Assistant course?

The enrolment form takes approximately 10-20 minutes to complete and can be accessed from the enrolment tab on our website. If you are enrolling in a government funded course, you also need to submit additional information to ensure your eligibility. You will also need to obtain a Unique Student Identifier or USI as this is a government requirement for all students in Australia. Once we have received your application, we will generally process it within a few days - sometimes on the same day if everything was submitted such as a copy of your ID and a concession card if required. You will then have immediate access to your course and can get started straight away.

Summary

This article has covered everything that you need to know as far as teacher’s assistant courses in Australia including but not limited to:

  • Obtaining a teacher’s assistant qualification
  • Becoming a teacher’s assistant and finding work
  • Working as a teacher’s assistant including pay and allowances
  • Roles, responsibilities and JDFs
  • Common issues and challenges

If you have any additional questions regarding teacher’s assistant courses in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any stage. If we don’t know the answer – no one does!


About the author

Adam Green is a former teacher, member of the government’s Education Support Industry Advisory Group, MD at FTTA, and a post-graduate researcher at Murdoch university.


Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is general, may not be relevant to you, is not legal advice and no guarantee of accuracy is provided. Users should seek expert advice before relying on any information provided in this article.

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