Education support staff play an incredibly important role in the UK classroom, inspiring students to achieve their academic and social potential and becoming important mentors for the learners of today.
I moved over to London when I was 20 to go to the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and ended up living there for 5 wonderful years. During this time, I had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant/ cover supervisor with anzuk.
I wanted to share some experiences with you about what it is really like to work in primary and secondary schools in London.
How I heard about anzuk:
Like a lot of my best discoveries, I came across anzuk one night at the pub. My friend (who was also a performer) had recently started doing some teaching assistant work and said I should think about it too. At the time, I was looking for work that was flexible and rewarding, to fit in around my auditions and gigs.
I didn’t know much about teaching assistant work, but having tutored, babysat and worked in children’s theatre in the past, I knew that I loved working with young people, and I was interested to hear more.
I decided to get in touch and before long, I was riding on the tube to London Bridge for an interview with an anzuk consultant.
The interview was really laid back and informative, and after reference checks and getting my DBS, I was heading to a local primary school for my first day.
Types of work available:
There are two types of roles available for unqualified educators in the UK: Cover Supervisors or Teaching Assistants.
In this role, your main function is to assist the main classroom teacher to ensure the lessons run smoothly. This may include:
–Working one on one with students that might require a bit of extra support in the classroom
-Assisting with behaviour management
-Assisting with marking work
–Supervising during break times
–Running group work with students
(To name a few)
The role of the Cover supervisor is a little different, and it is not something that we have in NZ or Australia. In this role, you are essentially working as an unqualified relief teacher. Your main duties in this role is to facilitate the lesson plan which will have been left by the regular teacher and to make sure everyone stays on track and motivated.
I did a mixture of TA work and CS work when I was in London, and if you register with anzuk, you can try out a mixture of these roles and see what suits you best. My preference was Cover Supervisor work as I loved getting a chance to run lessons myself, but it completely depends on your personality as to what suits you best.
There are no fixed educational requirements for education support jobs. Instead, these roles are hired based on values and interpersonal skills. Generally, people that excel in this role are people with the following skills:
My First Day:
Thankfully, my first day was a success. The golden rule from drama school of “fake it till you make it” became my new mantra and before long I felt confident facilitating lessons.
I adored working with children, the way they see the world is so refreshing, and they are endlessly curious. Above all, they were constantly making me laugh, like one day when a 6 year old asked me very earnestly: “Miss Shannon… Are you older or younger than the Queen?”.
I bought my first eye-cream that day. Wear sunscreen, kids.
I found that my training in the performing arts prepared me with some skills that came in handy in the classroom too. I was determined to help make learning as fun as possible-injecting music, art, comedy and lateral thinking at every opportunity.
I felt privileged to be working with students one on one who may have been struggling in the classroom, or who felt disengaged or excluded from what was going on. We would develop new ways of engaging with content together. And seeing even the smallest breakthroughs, felt like winning the lottery.
Flexible work or Contract Roles available
The beauty of TA work is that was completely flexible – I could work as much or as little as I wanted. This slotted in nicely around my acting work and singing gigs. I’d just jump on the “Ready2Work’’ app, and mark myself as available on the days I wanted to work that week, then wake up at 6.30am and wait for the call to hear about what shifts were available that morning.
Gain Valuable Classroom Experience
Another thing I loved about education support work, is that it gave me valuable classroom experience and a chance to try out some components of teaching. This can be a perfect step for those who might be interested in doing their teacher training down the line who want to gain firsthand experience.
Check out this amazing story of one of our Cover supervisors, Holly, went on to complete her teacher training when she moved back home to New Zealand and now teaches at her old high school! Read Holly’s story HERE.
I ended up pursuing a career as an education consultant in the anzuk office, which has taken me from London to Melbourne and now back home to New Zealand.
For those interested in taking the next step or hearing more about education support opportunities, feel free to email email@example.com.