Competition for teaching assistant (TA) positions is fiercer than ever, there’s no question about that. Plucky young graduates, desperate to get onto PGCE courses are snapping up teaching assistant positions left, right and centre, blowing applicants without existing TA training out of the water – I know, I’ve been pipped to the post on TA jobs myself!
There are two main ways of going about getting the training that you need. You can train full-time or part-time; you can train at a specialist education institution, or you can even train from the comfort of your own home. There’s really no excuse not to get training to expand your skill-set and show those graduates who’s boss.
College training courses
The UCAS website (http://fd.ucas.com/CourseSearch/Default.aspx#results_1) shows that there are just 30 courses available at 28 colleges spread throughout the UK. Colleges vary on how they offer their teaching courses (whether they are full or part-time), and also what their particular course emphasises based on the expertise of their tutors.
They also vary on their requirements in terms of work experience – whether they require it at all, how much experience they require and so on. You’ll have to dig through the courses on offer and see which college offers the right course for you. Though unless you’re lucky enough to find that your local college is offering the exact course that you want, chances are, you’ll have to move to a new city.
Distance learning courses
This is where specialist distance learning colleges come in. More often than not, no qualifications are needed to start courses with distance learning colleges, lowering the bar for entry. In addition, they tend to offer a number of TA courses, including courses that would allow you to train as a specialised teaching assistant, for example a TA trained to work with special educational needs.
Distance learning courses tend to be more competitive in their pricing than traditional college or university courses, and can be available through interest-free payment plans. You won’t have to move, and you won’t have to worry about timetables and deadlines in quite the same way as you would on a full-time course – allowing you to fit your training in around childcare commitments, or a job you already have.
The only problem you might encounter is choosing which college to approach – the number of companies willing to offer teaching assistant training through distance learning is daunting, to say the least, so you might have quite a research job ahead of you. Though this is true of training through colleges, too. I ended up choosing a company called Stonebridge UK , but you might find another college that better suits your needs.
So, which should I choose?
College training appeals to some, distance learning appeals to others. Finances aside, the difference between the two offerings is structure versus flexibility. Distance learning courses offer greater flexibility in terms of when you work in the day, how generous you want your deadlines to be, and they give you the luxury of working in the comfort of your own home. However, some people actively benefit from the structure and deadlines of a traditional college experience – it can keep them focused and on task. Take time making your decision and make sure to choose what works best for you. That way, you might end up enjoying your training as much as you will the final job!