Kerry Ojari

Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA)

View the course

I’d previously worked within the same mainstream school for over 15 years, in a variety of roles, including within the SEND department, running intervention groups, working within the behaviour and alternative provision, and teaching English. However, I felt I’d reached a ‘ceiling’ within my current role and within a mainstream school environment and needed a further challenge. I applied for a new job at a local hospital school within a Tier 4 mental health unit for inpatients aged 13-18 years. I was successful and have now been working there for two years. After my first year and once I’d settled into my role, I was put forward for HLTA status. I was delighted to be considered and it was wonderful to be recognised and gain status for a role that I’d already been doing many elements of in my previous setting.

I was excited to begin my journey. I chose the University of Northampton as a work colleague had previously completed the HLTA programme a few years before and had said how supportive and professional the University staff had been.

I needed to complete the Level 2 maths assessment online, which I was quite anxious about, but the team at the University made me feel at ease and talked me through the process beforehand. The assessment was run beautifully and was well-organised, and the tutors really put me at ease, offering constant guidance throughout.

I enjoyed the whole process of the HLTA programme, it really made me consider just how much I knew and how much I already do on a day-to-day basis. It gave me the validity that I was doing everything right when I completed the tasks and delved into all aspects of the role, and it was amazing to meet individuals from other settings and see the varied work we all do. I particularly enjoyed working in the breakout groups as this provided extra support.

Attending this programme has helped further my career development, as I’ve been given extra responsibilities within my current role. I now teach English once a week and continue to run the Arts Awards programme – it is nice to be recognised for what I do and having the chance to complete the HLTA assessment has given me a confidence boost, so I’m now keen to take on even more extra challenges within my role. Also, it was nice to study again and work towards a goal.

During the 15 years I’d worked as a Teaching Assistant, I’d enjoyed my role, but I always felt there was something missing. Gaining my HLTA status has given me a new feeling of pride in what I do, as well as a sense of achievement. Within my current role I’m now given more responsibility regarding teaching and planning, which is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I may consider completing the Foundation Degree in Learning and Teaching (FDLT) in the future.

The skills and knowledge I’ve gained on the HLTA programme that are most useful in my current role are the ability to be reflective and not afraid to step out of my comfort zone, as well as being able to embrace my own personal qualities and experience to provide an enriching therapeutic approach to learning.

The advice I’d give to Teaching Assistants/support staff interested in this career path would be to use the support of your tutor and believe in yourself! My time at the University of Northampton was inspiring, motivating, empowering, reflective, and worth every moment of study.