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Teaching Assistant Apprenticeship: A Career Changer’s Experience

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Meg Oswald
/ Categories: General

Caroline James started her Teaching Assistant Apprenticeship in 2022 as a career changer, with no previous experience working in schools. Eighteen months later, she has almost completed her apprenticeship and is sure that she’s found the career for her.

As a Film Studies graduate, Caroline spent the first few years of her career as a freelance video editor and marketer within the arts. She said: “I worked for community cinemas, film festivals and a youth theatre. It was during my time at the youth theatre that I had the first inkling that teaching would be better suited to me.

“I had the opportunity to lead workshops which helped me fall in love with teaching. I also realised that office-bound remote work was not for me, and I prefer roles that are social with lots of face-to-face interaction. Education is people-centred which appealed to me.”

Caroline chose an apprenticeship as she wanted to be sure that teaching and education were right for her. She said: “I wanted to develop my skills and build confidence, and the interactive qualities of teaching and learning on the job mean you can get a very tangible idea of your progress. I have had a great experience and am now more confident that I know what to expect working in other schools, and what resources there are for putting together an effective lesson.”

Sharing a key highlight of the apprenticeship, Caroline said: “Our thesis-style module is all about adding value to education and we have free rein on how we address the topic. As drama and film are a couple of my biggest passions, I chose sensory storytelling which means, each week, I share an 8-10 sentence story with different sensory pointers to four Year 1 students.

“One of these pupils displays signs of autism and is nonverbal. After the very first storytelling session, they had a big smile on their face. The next day, I received direct feedback from the pupil’s mother who expressed how much her daughter had enjoyed it – which was incredibly rewarding.”

Supporting pupils with SEN is a core part of the apprenticeship. Caroline said: “We learn strategies for how to best support pupils with special educational needs. I think it’s brilliant that there’s such a strong emphasis on this as it’s important that classrooms are inclusive spaces and that no one is left behind.”

Looking to the future, Caroline said: “My long-term goal is to become a primary school teacher. Having come into the apprenticeship completely new to teaching, I have developed soft skills that are crucial for teaching and helped me feel like a more well-rounded teaching assistant.

“Everything I have learned gave me the confidence to apply for a PGCE course. I’ve been accepted and will begin my journey to becoming a qualified teacher at UCL in September!”

Reflecting on her experience overall, Caroline said: “I think what is brilliant about this apprenticeship is not only do you learn a lot about working with children, but you also learn a lot about yourself.

“I’d really recommend this apprenticeship to anyone who is looking to improve their skills as a Teaching Assistant or anyone who might be completely new to teaching.”

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