Teaching assistant pay and conditions

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

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