Like regular teaching assistants (TAs), higher-level teaching assistants (HLTAs), perform duties to reduce the responsibilities of teachers. However, HLTAs have more responsibilities and often perform more complex tasks than standard TAs. For example, HLTAs teach classes on their own and cover planned absences, allowing teachers more time to plan lessons and mark assignments.


HLTAs provide essential support to teachers inside and outside the classroom. They play a crucial role in enriching the learning experience for students. Their duties include preparing lesson plans and reporting on student progress. With their advanced skills, expertise, and dedication, HLTAs contribute to the smooth running of classrooms and the delivery of high-quality education.


In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the multifaceted role of HLTAs, exploring their responsibilities, required skills, qualifications, salary expectations, and potential career pathways. 

What does a HLTA do?


Under the direction of a teacher, higher-level teaching assistants prepare and deliver pre-planned lessons, lead small group instruction, or provide one-to-one support to students. They also assist in maintaining a positive learning environment by managing behaviour, implementing classroom routines, and ensuring student engagement and participation.


As well as supporting teachers in the classroom, they also play a role outside the classroom. HLTAs may lead or support extra-curricular activities, clubs or projects that extend learning beyond the classroom. They also organise and facilitate activities like sports teams, drama productions or academic competitions, providing students with opportunities for personal growth and skill development. Outside the classroom, HLTAs can also manage classroom-based staff, develop specialist curriculum areas and liaise with parents or guardians on sensitive issues that pupils may have.


HLTAs serve as positive role models for students. They also act as mentors or peer supporters for other teaching assistants or trainee teachers, sharing their expertise and providing guidance.

Responsibilities of a HLTA


The responsibilities of a HLTA encompass a wide range of duties, reflecting their advanced skills, expertise, and leadership capabilities. While specific responsibilities may vary depending on the educational setting and the needs of the school, the following outlines the core duties typically associated with the role:


  • Preparing classrooms for lessons including setting up projectors for video presentations
  • Sourcing handouts and textbooks for students
  • Teaching classes without any assistance, especially when teachers are off sick or on leave
  • Working with groups of students or individuals that need special attention
  • Planning and delivering learning activities either independently or with a teacher
  • Assessing student progress and discussing with teachers, parents and carers about their development
  • Motivate and progress pupils’ learning following school policies and guidance from teachers
  • Support pupils in social and emotional well-being, reporting problems to the teacher
  • Provide verbal and written feedback on lesson content
  • Invigilate exams and tests

Is a HLTA job a good fit for you?


If you are sensitive to the needs of children and know how to be tough when students need to be disciplined, a HLTA can be a good fit for you. The role also requires someone that is patient and someone that can stay calm when working with challenging behaviours. Working with children can be unpredictable, but people who are able to be flexible and adapt can ensure positive learning outcomes for all students.


To assess whether this job is a good fit for you, consider the hard and soft skills that make up a good HLTA:


  • Computer literacy including confidence in using computers during lessons and digital record-keeping software
  • Good subject knowledge including English and maths
  • Written and verbal communication, including active listening to ensure you understand student needs
  • Interpersonal skills including social awareness and etiquette to ensure you can work effectively with teachers, students and parents
  • Understanding the expectations of EYFS or relevant curriculum (KS1, KS2, KS3 or KS4), learning outcomes and marking criteria
  • Positive attitude to change
  • Effective time management skills
  • A creative approach to problem solving and using this to inspire and motivate pupils
  • Good organisational skills and ability to prioritise tasks
  • Punctual and reliable

Required qualifications and education


In the UK, there are no specific mandatory qualifications required to become a HLTA. However, individuals interested in pursuing this role typically benefit from having a good standard level of education and relevant qualifications.


While the specific requirements may vary depending on the school, HLTAs often have a Level 2 or equivalent qualifications in English/literacy and mathematics/numeracy. After receiving these qualifications, they often complete a three-day HLTA preparation course. Upon passing the assessment, HLTAs can work towards satisfying the professional standards required for HLTA status.


Individuals may also consider a Level 3 qualification in Supporting Teaching and Learning. This qualification provides individuals with the knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to support teaching and learning in a school setting. To set yourself above the rest, some also choose to attain the Higher-Level Teaching Assistants Level 4 certificate.


While not always required, HLTAs may benefit from having higher education qualifications relevant to education or their area of specialism. This could include a degree in education, childhood studies, psychology, or a related field, which provides a deeper understanding of educational theory and practice.

Required experience


HLTAs need relevant experience working as a teaching assistant and with children within a learning environment. This could include experience as a teaching assistant, classroom assistant, learning support assistant, or in other educational support roles. Experience working with special educational needs (SEN) students or in specific subject areas can be particularly beneficial.


Having previous experience as a teaching assistant helps individuals learn how to work well with students, teachers and carers before taking on more responsibility. They need experience assessing children’s achievements and progress in line with national expectations and must have knowledge of relevant policies and codes of practice.


There is no set time period people should work as teaching assistants before becoming HLTAs. This usually happens once their school and head teacher recognises their potential.

HLTA salary expectations


Higher-level teaching assistant salaries vary based on factors such as location, experience, and the school. On average, entry-level HLTAs can expect to earn around £22,750 per year.


With experience and additional responsibilities, salaries can progress, reaching upwards of £29,236 per year. Specific roles or positions in high-demand areas may command higher salaries.


If you are working with an agency, you will get paid on a per day or per hour basis. On average, a higher-level teaching assistant will get paid around £12.73 per hour. This equates to around £95.47 per day.

Career paths and progression opportunities


HLTAs have various career paths and progression opportunities available to them, offering avenues for professional growth and development within the education sector. While the specific pathways may vary depending on individual interests, qualifications, and experiences, the following outlines some common career paths and progression opportunities for HLTAs:


  • Special educational needs (SEN) support: HLTAs with expertise in SEN may choose to specialise in this area and pursue roles focused on supporting students with diverse learning needs. They may become SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Coordinators), SEN Teaching Assistants, or specialists in specific areas of SEN, such as autism spectrum disorders, dyslexia, or speech and language difficulties. These roles involve providing tailored support and interventions to students with SEN, collaborating with teachers and external professionals, and contributing to the development and implementation of individualised education plans (IEPs).



  • Leadership and management roles: HLTAs with strong leadership abilities and management skills may progress into leadership and management roles within schools or educational organisations. They may pursue roles such as Assistant Headteacher, Department Coordinator, or Pastoral Lead, where they can lead teams, manage resources, and contribute to strategic decision-making. Leadership and management roles offer opportunities to make a broader impact on school improvement and drive positive change within the education system.


  • Further Education and training: HLTAs interested in continuing their professional development may choose to pursue further education and training in specialised areas of education or related fields. They may undertake postgraduate qualifications, such as a Master’s degree in education, educational leadership, or specific subject areas, to deepen their knowledge and expertise. Additionally, they may pursue professional certifications or endorsements in areas such as assessment, curriculum development, or educational technology, enhancing their credentials and expanding their career opportunities.

Becoming a higher-level teaching assistant offers plenty of opportunities for personal and professional growth within the education sector. From supporting classroom teaching and learning, taking on leadership responsibilities and making a meaningful difference in the lives of students, the role of an HLTA is both diverse and rewarding. 


Aspiring HLTAs should embrace the challenges and opportunities that come their way, knowing that their contributions have a lasting impact on the future generation.


If you’re looking for a HLTA job, CER has a wide range of roles to suit your skills and preferences. Get in touch with our team today or view our latest HLTA jobs


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