The role of a learning support assistant is to help students in the classroom and provide additional support to students who may have special educational requirements. Also commonly referred to as teacher assistants, learning support assistants are employed in a range of capacities from preschool through high school. Many learning support assistants may also be required to supervise during recess and on field trips and provide clerical support to teachers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor reports that many learning support assistants need only a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training. However, those with a college degree may find they have more career prospects in the field. Learning support assistants who are employed in particular schools, such as those with a large proportion of students from low-income households, are required by state mandate to have a college degree and pass a rigorous state assessment.
Learning support assistants are often required to work with those who have additional learning needs and must therefore be patient, supportive and encouraging. The ability to work well with a wide range of people is required when dealing with students, teachers and parents. The Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC) reports that learning support assistants should be willing to learn, be trustworthy and show initiative.
The responsibilities of a learning support assistant vary depending on level of experience, employer and location. The DMBC notes that learning support assistants are required to offer support to both students and the teacher. They must promote good behaviour among students, maintain pupils' interest and motivation, build positive relationships with students and, when necessary, report to the teacher. Learning support assistants are also required to assist the teacher in offering information for student records and, if required, monitoring student activities after classroom hours.
The BLS notes that employment growth for the future is positive, with employment expected to grow by 10 per cent until 2018. The BLS reports that the greater emphasis on school quality and accountability has increased the demand for learning assistants as they assist students who are failing to perform to a better standard. Employment prospects are expected to be most favourable for those with at least two years of postsecondary education, those who are experienced in helping special education students and those who can speak a foreign language.
The salary range of a learning support assistant varies depending on the level of responsibility, experience, location and employer. According to the BLS, the average annual salary of a learning support assistant in May 2008 was £14,430. Full-time workers usually receive health coverage and additional benefits. However, the BLS notes that many teacher assistants work on a part-time basis and thus will not ordinarily receive such benefits.