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Teaching assistant pay and conditions

Career | Published 24 January, 2012

What you can expect in terms of teaching assistant contracts, salary, sick pay and pensions

Research by the trade union Unison reveals that on average there are two TAs for every three teachers. However if you break this down we see that the majority of TA jobs are in primary where there’s typically one TA per 1.4 teachers. In secondary schools that figure drops to one TA per six teachers. 

TAs will largely find themselves either working with the whole class, working with small groups or working with individual pupils, however the most common set up is that the TA works with small groups of children. 

Teaching assistant contracts

TA employment conditions are either set by the local authority or by the school in accordance with LA guidance and there are a variety of types of contract used:

  • Permanent all year
  • Temporary all year
  • Permanent term time
  • Temporary term time
  • Casual

According to Unison research amongst local authorities the vast majority of TAs are on term time or casual contracts. However there is a considerable variety in the types of contracts used, with individual schools often employing TAs on at least two different kinds of contract. Casual contracts are most likely to apply to TAs taken on to work with a specific child.

Teaching assistant pay

Unlike teachers, support staff do not have the reassurance of national pay scales and pay varies across the country and across schools. Pay and conditions are determined by the school, if you work in an academy, and by the local authority if you work in a community school.

There was talk of setting up a national pay scale for support staff back in 2009/10, however the organisation which was working towards a national pay structure, the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, was disbanded in 2010 by Michael Gove as it “did not fit well with the government’s priorities for greater deregulation”.

Teaching assistants are most likely to be on a limited pay scale ranging from a minimum of point 6 or 7 on the local government pay scale (around £12,500) to a maximum scale point of 13 (around £15,500).

Working out what TAs actually get paid can be complicated though as variations in hours and term-time working usually mean that actual pay is less than what a full-time, full-year worker gets on the relevant scale point. 

Term time working can mean TAs are paid on the basis of a 38 or 39 hour working year plus four or five weeks holiday. However there are plenty of variations on this and a term time year can mean anything from 43 to 49.5 weeks, including paid leave. 

A 2009 survey revealed that the average take home pay for a full-time TA was £978 a month. About half took home less than £1,000 a month, while just under half took home between £1,000 and £1,500.

Holiday allowances for teaching assistants

If you’re on a permanent full time contract then you’ll get school holidays as paid leave. However most TAs are on term time only contracts, which means you don’t get paid for school holidays but should get four or five weeks holiday a year. Annual leave entitlement can sometimes go up according to your years of service. 

Sick pay and pensions

Teaching Assistants should be eligible to join the local authority sick pay and pension scheme

Union membership for teaching assistants

It’s not compulsory for teaching assistants to join a union but it is advisable. You can join one of the local government unions – Unison, GMB or Unite. You can also join the teaching union ATL as a support staff member.

For more advice from other TAs on which union to join read this conversation on the TES teaching assistant forum.

Useful links for teaching assistants

Read the Unison report on teaching assistant pay and conditions

Talk to other teaching assistants on the TES teaching assistant forum

How to become a teaching assistant

Tips on applying for teaching assistant roles

Teaching assistant career development

Teaching assistant job interview advice

Typical teaching assistant job description – What does the job involve?

Becoming a higher level teaching assistant

Teaching assistant interview question bank

Find a job as a teaching assistant on TES Jobs

View all the teaching assistant jobs

View other support positions

Don’t forget to set yourself up with a job alert for your chosen role so you will get the latest jobs emailed direct to your inbox as soon as they become available on TES Jobs. You have to register with TES to set up a job alert but registration is quick and free.

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Comment (9)

  • Great, at last, clear concise details. Perhaps one day we will get a clear contract as well!!

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    22 February, 2012


  • This is very useful. Is the pay scale similar in Independent Schools especially around Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey & Oxfordshire? Thanks

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    29 May, 2013


  • NJC LEVEL:?2a (points 10-13)

    How much would be paid a month so confused?

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    7 November, 2013


  • I have a question: the work as a TA and in particular as an EAL( English as an additional language) TA is possible besides UK? Could i be an EAL TA in another European country?

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    19 December, 2013


  • What fair about colleages working on the some scale point but one on 52 weeks per annum and the others on the term time 42 weeks per annum. It amounts to approx 2,5 months difference per annum a loss that is impossibe to make up. Whatever happened to equal days pay for an equal days money? We are asked to support the teachers with their disputes but if they were reduced like us to term time contracts tools would be down in seconds. Yet we have to put up and shut up witb our dismal unfair situation . It, s difficult doing the same duties as your colleagues yet they pick up whats equal to a paid family holiday each year, and you expect harmony in the work place please! Equality is all we ask for.

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    1 March, 2014


  • Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    5 September, 2014


  • My daughter started her job as a TA in Sept.13 but as a qualified teacher, was always going to be on the search for a teaching post which the headmistress was very aware off-and with perseverance and hard work-she managed to get a full time job beginning September 2014. She gave her notice in July and expected to get paid on the 15th August as her final pay. She didn't. Why? We believed that her wage was divided by 12 to give a wage each month so, starting in September should include August...right..? I worked as a TA for nearly 10 years and ALWAYS got an August wage- I left in 2011-has something changed?
    To add insult to injury, as a qualified teacher, the school took full advantage off her good nature and willingness to prove she could independently teach-receiving no extra pay-took whole class lessons, helped with out of school activities including the choir and residential school trips-much more than I, as a 'regular TA' did.
    It just seems unfair-she feels really let down by this-can anyone help please? Thank you x

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    5 September, 2014


  • I have autism so bit worried about communication. But I really want to be a T.A

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    21 January, 2015


  • I think TA's really do get the short straw. If you ask teachers who work with TA's, they will totally agree. I work full-time in a salford school (academy) as a level 2 permanent TA. I work as a one to one for the main subjects (english, maths and reading) and i get half hour lunch and 15 mins playtime break. Although technically I am a one to one, i end up with several children on my table who have some sort of SEN. I work half an hour at lunch as support for the welfare ladies and i teach a group of approx 13 children maths and a group of approx 12 phonics, without support. I also work as a class support TA for the rest of the day. My jobs vary tremendously and it is tiresome to say the least. I am all over the place in school from key stage 1 to key stage 2. There is no way a school can function without TA's yet we are underpaid and overworked and the government couldn't care less. I get £7 an hour. I had to stop contributions towards pension because i still find it difficult to make ends meet. The way we get paid is VERY VERY CHEEKY! The total number of hours we work in total per year (term time, NO HOLIDAYS AT ALL) is divided by 12 so we get paid every month. So we do not get paid for any holidays at all, half term, full term, summer hols, etc. just for the hours we work during term time.

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    26 September, 2015

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