Growing up in a slum in Manila, I realise the importance of education towards social mobility. And so ever since as a child, I knew that I wanted to get into teaching – to help young people achieve their full potential.
I have finally achieved this childhood dream when I became a psychology lecturer in 2009, until 2013, when I moved in the UK to do my MSc degree. After graduating, I soon worked on a number of non-academic jobs before I finally landed a job as learning support coach at a local college.
My experiences have inspired me to share my insights to help people who also would like to be on this role.
What is a learning support coach?
Like any job applicant, I did a bit of research about the role, before finally clicking that ‘apply button’.
There are a range of names used for this role – my job title for instance is learning support advisor. While others call it learning support coach, learning support assistant, teaching assistant, learning assistant, special educational needs (SEN) assistant, etc.Throughout this article, I would use the word LSC (learning support coach), since that is my job title.
But whatever the job title may be, it is certainly a challenging and rewarding role which involves supporting students who have learning difficulties to cope with mainstream education.
An LSC works alongside a class teacher in either a primary or a secondary school, or in my case at a college. They might work one-to-one with individual learners or with a small group.
Sometimes LSCs have particular skills. For instance, they may speak an additional language (which is especially useful when some learners have that as their first language).
One advantage of this job is that you normally work regular school hours, Monday to Friday, but is term time only. However, they may sometimes have to be at school for training days or parents’ evenings. Full-time salaries range from £10,000 to £15,000, depending upon experience and responsibilities. Many teaching assistants work part-time.
In the UK, there are no compulsory qualifications to become an LSC. Instead, emphasis is on personal attributes. However, you may benefit from qualifications in early years. Also, you may be able to start as a trainee through an apprenticeship scheme.
LSCs are part of a growing international trend toward paraprofessionals working in public services. Recently, There has been controversy over TAs’ deployment and appropriate role when supporting the learning of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools.
Qualities of an effective learning support assistant
There are many personal qualities that are expected from an LSA, but here are some of them that one should possess in order to carry out the role more effectively:
- To be an effective LSC you should possess a genuine sense of caring and understanding towards learners who have special needs.
- Classrooms where learners have SEN can be quite unpredictable so an LSA must be able to cope with it on most occasions and with a sense of urgency.
- Although LSCs are working under the guidance of the teacher, there would be several instances when the LSA would be expected to work on their own initiative.
- And I mean lots of patience.
Dennis Relojo is the founder of Psychreg and is also the Editor-in-Chief of Psychreg Journal of Psychology. Aside from PJP, he sits on the editorial boards of peer-reviewed journals, and is a Commissioning Editor for the International Society of Critical Health Psychology. A Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society, Dennis holds a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Hertfordshire. His research interest lies in the intersection of psychology and blogging. You can connect with him through Twitter @DennisRelojo and his website.