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What do teacher’s aides do?

Teacher’s aides work in schools assisting teachers and supporting children to learn and develop new skills. They also assist the teacher with administration tasks, behaviour management, planning and developing resources and often work with students with disabilities one-on-one.

supporting students in groups or individually

Teacher’s aides spend most of their time supporting students one-on-one or in small groups.

This post will explain:

  • What teacher’s aides do in a typical day
  • The different types of teacher’s aides and the role of each
  • Job description forms and expectations (JDFs)
  • Common question such as what teacher’s aides do at recess and lunch
  • Introduce you to some academic literature and research regarding teacher's aides

Teacher’s aides can work in a range of environments and because of this their roles and responsibilities can vary significantly (what is often referred to as ‘role-stretch’). For example, a teacher’s aide who works in year 1 will do a very different job to a teacher’s aide who works in year 12, or with a student with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

There are three common tasks that all teacher’s aides are employed to undertake:

  • Assist with student behaviour
  • Assist with student development
  • Assist with operational tasks

In a typical classroom, the teacher’s aide will circulate from group to group or work one on one with a student. He or she is not expected to teach the whole class as that is the role of the classroom teacher. During class time, the teacher’s aide is helping to ensure that students are meeting behavioural expectations (class rules for example) and are on task. The term ‘on task’ means that students are doing what they are supposed to be doing – normally learning something, completing an activity or task set by the teacher (and not socialising too much as many would prefer to do).

They work closely with teachers, developing and obtaining resources, setting up and operating equipment, undertaking administrative duties, supervising students and participating in teaching activities under the direction of a teacher. They provide a wide range of support for students who need assistance to participate in educational activities and achieve learning outcomes.” Department of Education (Queensland)

Here is a list of 22 tasks that a teacher’s aide may do in a typical day:

  • Greet students and parents in the morning
  • Assist students to prepare for the day
  • Prepare resources for students
  • Organise, clean and store equipment
  • Guide student behaviour
  • Ensure class and school routines are followed
  • Update records of student progress
  • Report student progress to the teacher
  • Clean and assist with hygiene related tasks
  • Assist children with hygiene and toileting
  • Assist students with special needs
  • Supervise students inside and outside of the classroom
  • Monitor the environment for hazards and reduce risks
  • Develop rapport with students (and staff)
  • Maintain professional conduct (dress, hygiene, punctuality, demeanour, language)
  • Support literacy development
  • Support numeracy development
  • Support cognitive development (thinking)
  • Support physical development (gross motor, fine motor, physical health)
  • Support students to learn new skills (life skills, general knowledge, work skills)
  • Assist with organising excursions and incursions
  • Administration tasks as directed by the teacher

What the research, studies and literature says

Before we get into this article, we should briefly consider what teacher’s aides do. Here is what some recent studies have said:

A study in 2015, in Queensland Australia, found that teacher’s aides spend most of their time supporting students one on one or in small groups, as well as a limited amount of non-instructional work.

A New Zealand study concluded that they play a pivital role in providing support for students with disabilities in a classroom setting and ensure educational presence, participation and achievement.

A 2015 study published in the The Australian Association for Research in Education, stated that teacher’s aides work:

“with students one on one or in small groups to try to improve their academic outcomes, especially in the core subjects like reading and mathematics.“

A 2018 study conducted in the ACT, stated that teacher’s aides are primarily used to support students with disabilities:

“TAs are now employed to provide learning support in classrooms to enable students with disability and learning difficulties to access learning in mainstream schools…students with disability and learning difficulties are defined as students who receive additional resources to enable them to access classroom support, usually provided by a teacher’s aide.”

Another study from 2011 explained that:

“TAs have inadvertently become the ‘primary mechanism’ enabling students with disability and learning difficulties to attend mainstream schools…”

Howard and Ford (2007), concluded that teacher’s aide support students with more complex tasks such as:

“supporting students with disability and learning difficulties were responsible for planning, producing and adapting materials for one-on-one or small-group activities.”

Types of teacher’s aides

There are a few different types of teacher’s aides such as those in the table below. Each will undertake different roles and have slightly different responsibilities. A big factor that often determines what a teacher’s aide will do each day, is the classroom teacher who will direct the support staff in their room.




Teacher’s aide

Depends on state (Education Assistant in WA, SSO in SA etc.)

The general all-rounder, often employed to assist a student with special needs but will circulate around the room (normally).

Special need’s assistant

Special needs EA, special needs teacher’s assistant

Working in an inclusive classroom with one or more students with disabilities or working in a special needs school.


Aboriginal & Indigenous Education Officer

Works mainly with students of Aboriginal and Indigenous descent.

Home economics

Home economics assistant

Works in the home economics (kitchen) helping students and teachers with cooking lessons, stock-take etc.

What do teacher’s aides do in a typical day?

Given the diversity found in schools, classrooms, teachers, subjects and activities, a normal day for a teacher’s aide will vary from school to school. A typical work day may look like the following:





Students arrive

Greet students and parents, prep for day



Assist teacher to set up the first activity:

  • Photocopying and laminating
  • Gathering and organising resources



Assist students with weekly spelling words:

  • Flash cards
  • Sounding out
  • Word games



Assist students with literacy activities:

  • Sentence structure and grammar
  • Finding the right word
  • Brainstorming



Recess duty (weekly roster). Supervise students:

  • Play and sport activities
  • Eating and drinking
  • With medical needs
  • With special needs
(note: if on duty you will usually have your break when students return to class)



Assist students with numeracy activities directed by the teacher:

  • Organise resources
  • Support students one on one
  • Behaviour management



Assist the sports teacher with:

  • Gathering equipment
  • Setting up equipment
  • Assisting students



Rotational roster – supervising an area under teacher direction



Works in the home economics (kitchen) helping students and teachers with cooking lessons, stock-take etc.

  • Gather art supplies
  • Set up art room
  • Clean up art room
  • Put away art supplies


Home Time

Assist as directed (cleaning, organising, other). Often required to remain at school until a certain time.

Do Teacher’s Aides spend a lot of time photocopying and doing other admin type tasks?

In the past teacher’s aides were largely employed to support the teacher almost like a personal assistant. When teacher’s aides were first employed in the 60s and 70s, they were there mainly to reduce the work load of the teacher; they were expected to do most of the mundane work, while teachers did all the face to face teaching (or the majority of it).

However, this isn’t really the case anymore, especially in Australia (except in universities where TAs may be used but often go by other titles). In schools, teacher’s aides are almost always used for supporting students, preparing resources and managing the classroom. They do no more admin work (and possibly less) than the classroom teacher. Of course – it can depend on the teacher, the school and why you were hired in the first place.

Where can teacher’s aides (find) work?

Education in Australia is compulsory until a certain age depending on the state. Some states require attendance until at least the year in which the child turns 17 (through formal schooling or a combination of training and employment). Compulsory school education in Australia generally begins with preschool. Students then enrol in primary school (grade k-6), followed by secondary school (or high school, grade 7-10) and senior secondary school (or college, grade 11 and 12). There are various versions of this system in each state, territory or region.

Schools in Australia are either government or non-government. Non-government schools include private schools, faith-based schools and alternative schools such as Montessori. All schools in Australia are predominantly publicly funded by the federal government.

The details below may differ depending on your location. Information has been generalised in many cases.


Often shortened to Kindy and generally undertaken around the age of 4 for 12 months. Kindergarten is not compulsory however it is very common for parents to enrol their children in kindy when they are old enough. Kindy programs are not always operated by schools and many childcare services offer kindy programs. The purpose of kindy is to:

  • Learn through play in a structured learning environment
  • Learn how to make friends, share and develop social skills
  • Develop basic knowledge and expand on language skills
  • Learn how to express ideas and thoughts through art, dance and play
  • Help with the transition from home to formal full-time school


Pre-primary is the first year of formal schooling and starts at around 5 years of age. Pre-primary is full time and is compulsory in some states such as Western Australia. You can think of pre-primary as half way between kindy and primary school. Pre-primary is operated and delivered by early childhood teachers employed by a primary school.

Primary school

Primary school begins after pre-primary and runs from year 1 until year 6 or 7. This is the first stage of compulsory schooling in Australia.

  • A structured learning environment with a qualified teacher in each class
  • Attendance is required Monday-Friday and is spread across 4 school terms of around 10 weeks throughout the year (some states run 3 terms)
  • Learning follows the key areas and concepts outlined in the curriculum
  • Student begin to learn specialised knowledge such as foreign languages

High School

High school, also known as secondary school or college, covers the years 7-12.

  • Teachers are specialists in learning areas such as maths or science
  • Students generally move from class to class approximately every hour
  • Option to choose classes/programs based on interests such as sport or second languages

Special needs

Students with learning difficulties or disabilities have an equal opportunity to an education under law. Generally speaking, parents can choose:

  • To have their child mainstreamed, meaning the child will attend a mainstream school often with additional support such as an assigned EA
  • To send their child to a special needs school with funding and facilities that specialise in the delivery of education to students with additional needs or impairments.

What do teacher’s aides do on school holidays?

Teacher’s aides are not required to work on school holidays. Holidays are generally for 2 weeks during the year (end of term 1, 2 and 3) and for approximately 6 weeks over summer. Some states may use a three-term system - in which case summer holidays are a little longer.

While not required, some teacher’s aides do a range of task during school holidays (from home), such as preparing resources and attending PDs (professional development).

What do teacher’s aides do during recess and lunch?

teacher aide recess and lunch duty

Some teacher’s aides do duty – some don’t.

Teacher’s aides may be rostered on for supervisory duties (called ‘duty’ or ‘recess duty’). This typically happens when a teacher’s aide is employed to work mainly with one student (such as a student with a disability or high needs). The teacher’s aide will supervise the student, often from a distance, so the student can learn social skills and independence, during recess and lunch. The teacher’s aide will then have their break after recess or lunch, when everyone else has gone back to class.

What do teacher’s aides do in rural schools?

Rural schools are generally not that much different to large metro schools as far as what teacher’s aides do on a daily basis. They are still there to assist the teacher, help students develop new skills and learn new things.

Depending on the area, they may work in programs designed for students of aboriginal or indigenous descent. They may also work in a range of topics and year groups especially if the school is a regional school (from k-12) – metro schools tend to be more specific such as primary school only, middle school or senior college.

Check the job description for your role (or JDF)

If you have just applied for a teacher’s aide position or are lucky enough to already be employed in a school, and you want to know what you are expected to do in that role, check your JDF or Job Description Form. The JDF will generally be set out in a way that clearly states what you will be expected to do. For example, if the role is a home economics assistant position, it will say things like:

  • Assist with stock-take
  • Prepare food
  • Purchase food
  • Take deliveries
  • Assist teacher to manage student behaviour
  • Support students to use equipment safely
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

The big issue with teacher’s aides – role stretch

role stretch as a education assistant

Teacher’s aide can be expected to take on many roles such as library assistant.

One of the biggest issues with teacher’s aides’ positions, training teacher’s aides (something that we have done for more than a decade) is the issue of role stretch. This has been studied extensively (by academics) and is a known problem. Role stretch means that the position is very loosely described and may change over time – the number of tasks and responsibilities keeps stretching.

One reason for this is because teacher’s aides are employed by schools from money received from the government for a student with a disability or students from disadvantaged groups. However, the school can use the teacher’s aide almost in any way that they see fit (not necessarily with the students where the money comes from).

Teacher’s aides can be used to assist teachers who are struggling with behaviour management, with classes that have many challenging students such as groups who are significantly behind their peers academically, or for a range of other tasks depending on the programs that the school runs and where school managers think your time is best spent.

In other words – teacher’s aides need to be flexible, adaptable and open to change.

What do home economics assistants do?

home economics teacher assistant

Home Economics Assistants can work with students, but they also do lots of logistical tasks.

Have you got a passion for food? Are you a foodie? Do you enjoy cooking and working with children during family friendly work hours? If this is you, you may enjoy working as a home economics assistant/aide. Home economics assistants support home economics teachers in a range of tasks mainly related to home economics subjects such as Food Technology, which is a compulsory elective in most year 7-10 grades.

Students learn to prepare, cook and store food. Schools, both public and private, normally have a block of classrooms designated for home economics including kitchens with work benches for classes of students, store rooms and cleaning facilities. Some schools can have up to 10 kitchen type classrooms. You may also work in textile and fashion classes. As a Home Economics Assistant, you may be required to:

  • Collect and collate food lists from teachers
  • Conduct stocktake of current food items and products
  • Order food products from various suppliers
  • Ensure order was delivered in full with product in date
  • Liaise with teachers about recipes, class sizes and product volume
  • Prepare food items and products in advance of classes
  • Ensure that sufficient product is available for classes
  • Assist teacher with food demonstrations and activities
  • Support teacher with students with special needs
  • Support teacher with administration and other tasks
  • Maintain equipment, fixtures and fittings
  • Ensure safe food preparation, storage, labelling, and handling
  • Conduct laundry and cleaning tasks such as wiping tables and cleaning floors and fridges
  • Assisting children with food related activities such as preparation and cleaning
  • Assist teachers, similar to above, for textile classes such as fashion, sewing and textile technology
  • Attend events such as monthly dinners for local community members prepared by students, food expos and student work placements in industry.

What do library assistants do?

Teacher’s aides can sometimes be employed in schools as library assistants. Do you enjoy reading? Have you got a passion for history and culture? Do you like helping children and working in a team environment that is challenging, dynamic and interesting? This course is designed for teacher assistants seeking employment in a school library as part of their roster. Library assistants in schools are often qualified teacher aides.

Library assistants support school teachers and librarians with a range of tasks such as managing library services, assisting students with research, locating books and magazines, ensuring texts are returned and stored, purchasing new texts, managing bookings, light cleaning and general administration and support duties. Library assistants work in schools and other locations such as public libraries or corporate environments. Library assistants complete a range of tasks including:

  • Sorting books and other texts according to the appropriate classification system
  • Returning books to their appropriate location once returned by students
  • Issue items to students and process returns normally using electronic systems
  • Follow procedure when books are not returned such as contacting borrower
  • General administration duties such as answer phone enquiries and other requests
  • Assist with inter-library loan services and/or find texts and materials in journals
  • Support the teacher with collating materials, books and other learning tools
  • Support the teacher by undertaking general teacher assistant duties such as behaviour management
  • Prepare class areas and meeting areas in advance of classes booked for that area

What do admin assistants do?

Teacher’s aides are often employed as admin assistants either for part of their roster or solely as admin assistants.

Are you the type of person that is organised, ticks off to-do lists, are people friendly and are confident in working with computer programs such as Microsoft Office Word and Excel? Almost all schools, with the exception of very small school in regional areas, have at least one or more office administrators. Most schools have 5 or more admin staff who conduct a range of tasks, to assist principals, teachers, parents and students in administration activities. You will spend considerable time entering data, sending emails, answering phone calls, processing enrolments, storing and retrieving data and a range of other tasks in the school office. Admin staff undertake the following tasks:

  • Provide administration support to the school
  • Answer phone enquiries from parents and caregivers
  • Answer email enquiries from parents and caregivers
  • Assist in the management of enrolment and other official records
  • Receive forms, check, process and store information and data
  • Use a range of software packages to retrieve and store data/information
  • Use student management system
  • Assist with general school operations such as obtaining quotes for repairs
  • Undertake a range of tasks to assist senior managers as required
  • Light cleaning, sorting of folders, scanning, photocopying, filing and other tasks
  • Print, package and send letters and other forms of communication to specified people
  • Organise internal and external meetings
  • Update attendance records, creating new student folders
  • Finance tasks such as recording petty cash and minor purchasing


As you have read above, teacher’s aide is a broad job description, applied to school staff that are employed to assist teachers and support students in schools. They undertake a range of tasks from cutting up fruit to helping with essays. They can take on vastly different roles and responsibilities depending on the school and the needs of students, school managers, teachers and the funding available. Teacher’s aides need to be flexible, adaptable and be willing to take on a range of new roles – it isn’t the type of job where you can expect to be doing the same thing every day, year in, year out – that is what makes the role so challenging and rewarding at the same time – the ultimate, never-ending, learning experience.

About the author

Adam Green is a former high school and primary school teacher. He is a member of the government’s Education Support Advisory Group and is completing a Doctor of Education program specialising in teaching strategies and behaviour management.

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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