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How to Become a Higher Level Teaching Assistant

Want to advance as a teaching assistant? Our guide can help you out!

Table of Contents

Step 1: Learn about a higher level teaching assistant's role and responsibilities

As a higher level teaching assistant (or HLTA) you’ll be undertaking all the responsibilities of a teaching assistant alongside a number of others that your training will help you perform, not usually handled by teaching assistants. You’ll be working alongside teachers to plan lessons, cover teacher absences, and help give teachers time to plan and mark work. You could be working anywhere from as a subject specific TA to working alongside a wider department, helping to plan lessons and produce supporting materials.

When does a HLTA work?

School term times infographic explaining the different UK school terms

What does a HLTA earn?

As a HLTA you could earn from £20,088 on the lower end up to around £28,634. Your pay can vary depending on where you’re located and the level of responsibility you’ll be undertaking though the average is around £23,400.

If you want to learn more about what a teaching assistant earns then check out our HLTA salary page where you can find our breakdown!

How can you progress as a higher level teaching assistant?

Teaching assistant career progression

If you want to know how you could progress, take a look at some of our other career advice pages and find out what you’ll need to get where you want to be!

How many hours does a HLTA work?

Higher level teaching assistant weekly hours

Step 2: Improve your chances of getting a position as a higher level teaching assistant

If you’re comfortable with the responsibilities of being a higher level teaching assistant, then you’ll need to ensure that you have all of the necessary skills and qualifications for the position and understand what exactly you can do to help yourself advance in an educational setting.

To become a HLTA you’ll need to already be employed as a teaching assistant. If you’re not already employed as a teaching assistant then you should look at taking a Level 3 Teaching Assistant course and finding a teaching assistant position that you can later progress in. You’ll need to be experienced as a teaching assistant before becoming a HLTA, and having your Level 3 qualification will be helpful as a foundational course before higher level study. 

In many cases, schools will fund HLTA courses for teaching assistants that they think are ready to progress, but you could have to fund it yourself. You’ll also need the support of your head teacher to qualify for the training.

Which qualifications do you need to become a HLTA?

Though you don’t necessarily need your Level 4 qualification to become a recognised HLTA, it’s going to benefit you immensely in the role and in further work. Getting your Level 4 qualification will demonstrate to future employers that you have the skills you need for the role as well as ensure that you have a good knowledge of the role and its responsibilities. 

You could also need an A* to C grade at GCSE level in English and Maths or equivalent, depending on the workplaces you apply for. If you don’t have either one or both of these you should look at taking either a Level 2 Functional Skills English course or Level 2 Functional Skills Maths course. A functional skills qualification is equivalent to having your GCSE qualification at this level, and can help you get into a wide range of jobs, not just in education.

Check Out Our Level 3 Teaching Assistant Course Now!

Want to improve your chances of landing that teaching assistant role, or need a little something extra for your CV? Our Level 3 Teaching Assistant Course will be perfect for you! Get the knowledge you need to excel in a school setting!

Get some supporting qualifications valuable to the job

Though not essential, having supporting qualifications can really improve your chances of getting the position that you want and help you to stand out among other applicants. Getting your supporting qualifications will let you demonstrate additional knowledge that other candidates might not have.

For a higher level teaching assistant there are a number of supporting qualifications that could be helpful. A safeguarding and prevent course is going to equip you with the knowledge you need to help safeguard the children you’ll be caring for, a hugely important part of the job. Employers, as well as parents, are going to feel confident knowing you have the knowledge you need to support the organisation’s safeguarding responsibilities to a higher level.

You could also look into a qualification in understanding autism. Having a greater understanding of autism and how it affects children could be very beneficial depending on the children you’ll be working with. Even if you’re not working in a specialised setting, having the knowledge is likely going to help in your position, as autism affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, which could include some of the children you’re going to be caring for.

Step 3: Make sure your HLTA CV is up-to-date

You should make sure your CV includes your most up-to-date information, including any relevant qualifications and work experience you might’ve gained since you last updated it. 

It’s important to present yourself as best you can, since we all know first impressions are important, and your CV is more often than not going to be the first thing potential employers will see. It’s essential that they’re done right.

To make the best impression you can, you’ll need to convey the right information and present it well. Given how important your CV is, we’ve created a short guide to help give you the best chance of landing an interview and starting your career in early years!

Top higher level teaching assistant CV writing tips

When you’re looking at a position as a HLTA, it’s crucial that your CV is high quality and reflects your passion for the role. An effective CV is well presented, displays relevant skills and experience, and gives your potential employers an insight into who you are. 

It’s important that you use grammar correctly, that your writing is concise but informative, and any non-relevant information is left out. Not following these rules could mean your application is rejected, since employers could see it as too unprofessional. Our higher level teaching assistant CV writing tips are here to help you to land that position you’ve been waiting for!

1. Grab their attention with a personal profile

Your personal profile is the first section of your CV that employers will read to find out more about you. This is your chance to introduce yourself, sell your skills and outline your characteristics. Personal profiles are a perfect way to persuade recruiters, as it tells them straight off why they should hire you. 

This section can include relevant experience and achievements, but it’s important to tailor this to the job description and what’s prioritised there to show your enthusiasm for the role and that you’re a serious candidate for the position who has what they’re looking for. 

There are no set rules on the length of this section but you should aim for a few short sentences and no longer than 100 words. This way you can keep it concise and effectively highlight who you are to employers without giving them too much information, increasing the chances of them reading through the rest of your CV and considering you for the job. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and presenting the things that you think make yourself stand out.

Talk about yourself (when it's relevant)

Though your CV should be more focused on your skills and work experience rather than your personality, it can be good to include some relevant personal information such as your hobbies in your CV. What counts as relevant will vary from job to job.

2. Sell your skills

There should be a section in your CV that outlines your relevant skills. This makes it easy for the employer to read and more easily determine if you meet the requirements of the role. You should format this section using bullet points so that it’s simple and easy for employers to read. Make sure to include relevant skills that you think make you a good candidate for the position. Such as:

  • Comfortable and able to work unsupervised with individuals, small groups, and whole classes 
  • Able to plan and deliver lessons independently, as well as assess pupils’ work 
  • Being able to record and report pupil progress
  • Having the confidence you need to work with children and young people
  • Excellent communication and planning skills you’ll be able to use on the job

If you’re struggling to think of skills that are relevant to the job then it’s a good idea to check vacancy advertisements for some ideas. Start off by rereading the job you’re applying for and what might be useful to mention, but if you’re still stuck then take a look at other similar job postings. You should also think about which of your skills have been helpful in any of your past work or study. 

It’s important when talking about your skills to try and include both hard and soft skills, so that you can show some variety. Hard skills are the skills you gain through experience, knowledge, or learning such as through a qualification or after undertaking training. Soft skills refer to your personal traits and habits that determine how you work, like being an effective communicator, able to work in a team, or organisational skills.

3. Outline your experience

You should outline any past experiences in either work or volunteer positions that are relevant to becoming a forest school leader and can best show your potential employer the value that you’d be bringing to the position. 

The most valuable experience you can have as a HLTA is working in the position already and is something you should present front and centre. You should talk about your prior teaching assistant experience too as it will remain relevant to the position. Give details of where you worked, including the dates you started and finished your employment (these don’t have to be specific, usually the month and year are fine), alongside your key responsibilities within the role. If you have a lot of relevant experience then list it from most to least recent. Employers will want to know more of what you’ve been doing recently, rather than years ago, as it’s more relevant to the jobs you’ll be applying for now.

If you have no relevant experience then you should include any previous employment you’ve been in and the transferable skills you gained that will be useful in the role. Try and think about any similarities between your previous positions and the one you’re applying for. Is there anything listed on the job advertisement that sounds familiar?

4. List your education and qualifications

Making sure you mention your education clearly on your CV is very important, as it will show that you have the knowledge and qualifications needed for the job. When listing your qualifications you should prioritise two things: the level of the qualification (is it a degree or a GCSE?) and when you received it. Much like your experience, it’s best to list your qualifications from your most to least recent.

When you’re listing your qualifications make sure you include the name of the institution, the dates you attended them from, the subject(s) you studied or name of the qualification, as well as the final grade you received. If there’s a particular aspect of your study that is very relevant to the position you’re applying to then it would be a good idea to briefly mention it at some point.

Include your certificates and other qualifications

Don’t think you just need to include your experiences from school or university, things like standalone courses that award you with a certificate or diploma are more than relevant, especially if they cover a subject that’s relevant to your work. Add your certificates in the same way you’d add your other qualifications, providing any additional information as needed.

5. Remember to include your contact details

It might seem obvious, but having your contact details clearly signposted on your CV is extremely important, without them potential employers may have no way to contact you. You should include your up-to-date email, phone number, and address somewhere near the top of your CV so that they don’t get lost amongst the rest of your information.

Example higher level teaching assistant CV

Higher Level Teaching Assistant CV

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Struggling to put your CV together? Download our free CV template and get a head start on making a fantastic CV. Make sure to follow the rest of our tips and learn how to land that job you’ve always wanted!

Step 4: Search for HLTA jobs you can apply for

As a higher level teaching assistant you should already have a position at the school that you’re working for, and shouldn’t need to look for another right away. If you do look for a new job, however, you’ll be searching for it in much the same way you would for a regular teaching assistant position or any other job. There may be less demand for HLTAs than there are for other teaching assistants. Checking out our job board could be a good start for your search.  

Step 5: Write a job-specific HLTA cover letter

You should write your cover letter using the job description of the vacancy you’re applying for. Your cover letter is an important part of many job applications. 

No matter what kind of job you’re applying for, your cover letter is going to help demonstrate to potential employers the passion that you have for the role and allow you to sell yourself as a valuable candidate that they need to consider hiring. 

Top higher level teaching assistant cover letter writing tips

Cover letters are your chance to really sell yourself to a prospective employer and progress to the next stage of the hiring process. This opportunity isn’t always fully exploited by candidates, and sometimes cover letters just become reworked CVs or are poorly planned and formatted. Follow our guide if you’re looking to avoid these common pitfalls, and make your cover letter the best it can be!

1. What should a cover letter look like?

The header of your cover letter should have your up-to-date email, contact number, and the current date, as well as the recipient’s contact information. You should start your cover letter with a greeting such as “Dear [Company] Hiring Manager” or “Dear Mr/Ms Surname”, if you know who you’ll be contacting directly.

When choosing your font you need to make sure it’s not only easy to read but also looks professional, as well as the right size. Try to stick between a size 10pt-12pt font on your cover letter, as making your font size too big could come across unprofessionally, but it should still be clear and legible. Make sure to split the main body of text into multiple paragraphs, this not only makes it easier to read but also easier to plan the structure of your cover letter (each paragraph might have a specific topic, for example). 

It’s a good idea to sign off your cover letter using your name and a complimentary close. Using “Yours Sincerely” or “Your Faithfully” are seen as very formal, but can sometimes appear outdated, try using “Kind Regards” as a formal alternative that is still professionally acceptable.

2. What should I write in my cover letter?

Here are some suggestions for each of the paragraphs in your cover letter and what you might want to mention to your prospective employer: 

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We are interactive boxes, tap us! 

First paragraph


Start by explaining why you're writing the letter, making sure to mention the job you're interested in by its specific title, you could also mention where you saw or heard about the vacancy. Give a brief sentence stating your experience or a relevant qualification. 

Second paragraph

Experience and Qualifications

Highlight your relevant experience or qualifications. Talk about relevant responsibilities you had in previous roles, and go into more detail about how this makes you suitable for the role--is there a particular achievement you're proud of in your previous work or study that is relevant to the job? Mention it here!

Third paragraph


Discuss the skills you have that are relevant to the job and make sure that you mention how they make you well-suited for the role. Always be showing the employer what you have to offer them if they were to hire you. 

Final paragraph

Final note

Reiterate your interest in the role. Outline your motivations for not only working this type of job but why you want to work for this employer. It's a good idea to include some relevant knowledge about your potential employer, as it shows you are taking an extra interest.  

3. How can I make my cover letter unique for each role I apply for?

A good way of making your cover letter stand out from other candidates is by tailoring it to the particular role you’re applying for. It’s always easiest to look back through the job posting and pick out relevant information like the job title and employer and making sure to mention them early on. This will show your employer that your cover letter is tailored towards them, rather than being something generic you’re sending around to every employer.

When you’re going through the job posting take note of the specific skills and experience listed as desirable by the employer, you can tailor the skills and experience you mention to what they’re looking for. Try not to follow along too closely and risk looking like you’ve just copied the advertisement, but do enough to show that you’re the ideal candidate. Order your skills, experience, and qualifications in order of relevancy–what’s highlighted or mentioned first in the job posting? Is there something very specific that they’re looking for? Make sure you bring it up!

4. Finishing touches

Now that your cover letter is well-formatted, has the main body of it’s content written, and has been tailored to the job role, it’s time to put the finishing touches to your work.

Proofread what you’ve written a few times over to check for punctuation or grammar errors and how well your writing flows. Try and enlist the help of a friend or relative to give it a read over, they may spot something you missed!

Now you should go back to the job vacancy and re-read all of it. Check if there are any special instructions you should follow when applying for the position, like if they’re asking for the documents to be submitted as a particular file type or maybe want you to add a job reference number to your cover letter. Make any of the changes you need and ensure everything’s in order. Overlooking small things like this could ruin your otherwise perfect cover letter!

Example Higher Level Teaching Assistant Cover Letter

Higher level teaching assistant cover letter

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Struggling to put your cover letter together? Download our free cover letter template and get a head start on writing an amazing cover letter. Make sure to follow the rest of our tips and learn how to land that job you’ve always wanted!

Step 6: Prepare for interviews

We all know that job interviews can be nerve-wracking, but being well prepared for the interview will help you to appear calmer and more confident. It might seem obvious, but make sure that you always present yourself professionally at interviews, dress well, and always be polite. First impressions can make or break your chances!

Interviews can be daunting and hard to prepare for–especially if you don’t have much experience–but we’re here to help you out. 

We’ve compiled a list of common questions that you might be asked in your interview for an early years job and how you should go about answering them, as well as some questions you can ask your interviewer to help show your interest in the position!

Questions your interviewer might ask

Your motivations

Interviewers will want to hear about your motivations for getting into education, it’s good to be honest about your why you want the job and to show your potential employer that you genuinely care. Similar to a teaching position, you’ll be potentially having a big impact on the lives of the children and young people you work with.

Again, this is a personal question so have a think about what it is that you actually enjoy about the role and be honest about it, interviewers are going to value people who show some passion. You might want to mention the positive impact that you’re hoping to have through your work.

Think about the role of a higher level teaching assistant  and how you’ll be impacting the children you’re working with. Try and centre your response around how you’ll be benefiting the children and the wider workplace. Think about the increased responsibility of a higher level teaching assistant and what you’ll be doing at work.

Your personal approach to the role

Make sure that you’re aware of best practice for working with misbehaving children in an educational environment. You can impress the interviewer if you demonstrate the right knowledge for the job and reassure them that they aren’t hiring someone unprofessional or unaware of proper procedure. Of course policies can vary so it’s good to read up on your potential employer first.  

If you have experience with children bringing up an example of how you have dealt with poor behaviour in the past would be ideal! Using the STAR method is a good way to keep your answer short and concise. Of course policies can vary so it’s good to read up on your potential employer first.

Similarly to other questions, this one requires a personal response. Highlight the strengths and skills that are going to be useful as a HLTA, with an emphasis on what makes you uniquely suited to the position and how you’re going to improve where you work. Can you think of ways that you stand out from similar applicants? How have you impacted the schools you’ve worked in before?

You should make sure your interviewer understands that you’re comfortable with the responsibilities of a HLTA when moving up from working as a regular teaching assistant. As a HLTA you should already have some experience in the role of a teaching assistant, just emphasise how you’ve handled greater responsibility in the past and that you’ll be well-suited for the job. Mentioning any particular successes you’ve had handling these responsibilities is going to be useful.

Qualifications and experience

You should talk about your qualifications and past experiences as a teaching assistant that will be useful in the role. Mention specific times where your skills have contributed to a learner’s success and things similar to that. Being able to demonstrate the positive impact you’ve had and will have, as well as the skills that you’ll bring to the school is key. 

Employers are going to favour those who have been qualified for longer and have more experience but it shouldn’t be too big of an obstacle if you’re newly qualified. Talk about how long you’ve been qualified, your journey from teaching assistant to HLTA, and mention how your qualifications have helped in the workplace and enabled you to perform better. 

You can also mention any experiences in your education or training that might be relevant to your work in order to complement the work experience you might already have talked about.

This is important if you’re working in a specialised setting but can also apply to any educational institution. You should give examples of times you’ve worked with children with special needs and any positive outcomes you’ve contributed toward, as well as mentioning any training you have in this area. If you have no experience then talk about your willingness to learn instead and how past experiences in other settings, or knowledge from your studies might help in this situation. Highlight your willingness to help all children and accommodate a variety of needs.  

Questions for you to ask your interviewer

Now let's recap...

Final note

After reading through our guide, you should be ready to embark on a new career in education with the confidence you need to excel. If you follow our tips then you’ll be more than ready to get the job role you’ve been looking for! Good luck, and if you need any more advice on other career options, don’t forget to take a look through our career advice page

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