Teaching assistants and support staff

Whilst the majority of support staff are deployed in the classroom supporting teachers and working directly with learners, many are deployed in other support roles that schools depend on to ensure that the school runs smoothly and efficiently.

Teaching assistants (TAs) are a valued and integral part of the education workforce, playing a crucial role in supporting our children and young people.

In Our National Mission the Welsh Government reiterated its commitment to continuing to enable TAs to improve their skills and help them to commit to professional learning by facilitating clearer learning pathways, including pathways to achieve the status of higher level teaching assistant (HLTA).

In 2021 there were over 31,000 school learning support workers registered with the EWC across Wales.

Higher level teaching assistants

The Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) status was introduced in 2003 to support school workforce reforms. The agreed definition of HLTA is ‘to complement the professional work of teachers for agreed learning activities under an agreed system of supervision. This may involve planning, preparing and delivering learning activities for individuals/groups or short term for whole class’. The award of the status, although not a qualification, supports teaching assistants to undertake a specific role within the classroom.

The HLTA scheme has been run in partnership since 2005 and Welsh Government continue to support an increase in HLTA numbers. There are no specific regulations for HLTA although there is an impact on the Workload Agreement.

Entry to the HLTA scheme requires candidates to have appropriate literacy and numeracy qualifications and the endorsement of their Headteacher. The HLTA scheme requires candidates to complete pre-tasks and provide evidence to demonstrate that they meet the appropriate requirements for the scheme which will be linked to the Professional Standards for Assisting Teaching.

For more information on the Teaching Assistants Learning Pathway and training opportunities please refer to your Regional Consortia websites.

Teaching Assistants Learning Pathway (TALP)

Since 2017 the Welsh Government has supported the development of a national approach to developing Teaching Assistants across Wales which will support the introduction of the new curriculum and the Professional Standards for Assisting Teaching. In partnership with the Regional Consortia, the Welsh Government has supported the development of a Teaching Assistants Learning Pathway, with the view:

  • to increase the number HLTA candidates each year
  • training for all new Teaching Assistants
  • train assessors to deliver a programme of activity aligned with the National Approach to Professional Learning Framework including opportunities for school learning support workers to gain a level 2 qualification in Mathematics and English/Welsh
  • to develop the learning pathway for all Teaching Assistants
  • our existing Teaching Assistants Learning Pathway offers the professional learning needed to support TAs throughout their career. Programmes currently available include Induction, Practising, Aspiring Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) and HLTA. The Aspiring Higher Level Teaching Assistant programme is the most recently developed element of the TALP. It is delivered / facilitated over 4 days with a further day for Assessment for those wishing to achieve HLTA status
  • programmes are delivered bilingually using a hybrid approach and there are also programmes available to help TAs develop their Welsh language skills
  • for further details on the TALP please see your Regional Consortia website.

You may also find it useful to visit our Talk Pedagogy pages. Talk Pedagogy, Think Learning provides a digital space to share practice and support collaboration within and across our schools to share pedagogy and practice.

Activities to support those assisting teaching

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language issued a Written Statement on 18 February outlining some of the work currently being undertaken to support those assisting teaching.

This includes a WLGA Task and Finish Group which is considering several key issues including deployment of teaching assistants; access to training and professional development; standardisation of roles; and pay, as a longer-term consideration for local authorities based on outcomes achieved in the other areas identified. 

We have also established a Professional Learning Steering Group to look at all PL for TAs in Wales. The steering group is made up of Headteachers, Practitioners, Regional Consortia and unions. The aim of the steering group is to ensure equality of access to targeted, high quality and consistent training for our teaching assistants.

A sub-group of the steering group is developing further resources for leaders and Governors on the deployment of teaching assistants. This professional learning package, developed in conjunction with headteachers, teaching assistants and regional staff, will be available to leaders and Governors for both live and remote synchronous learning.

These groups are closely linked and work together to ensure that we have a coherent approach to this very important work.

We have already developed some good practice playlists to help headteachers, showing how TAs have been utilised over the past 2 years (available via the link below).

Further resources and updates will be added as and when they are available.