ONE of the North-East’s leading charities is looking for teaching assistants to join an expanding team making a difference to the lives of some of the region’s most vulnerable children.

The North East Autism Society (NEAS) has announced a recruitment drive for 13 teaching assistants to work at the school it runs at the pioneering North East Centre For Autism, at Aycliffe.

The vacancies are for Level 2 and Level 4 teaching assistants, and potential applicants do not need to have previous experience in the care sector.

Aycliffe School is an independent, purpose-built specialist school for pupils aged three-19, and plays a vital role in the life-changing services provided by NEAS across the North-East.

The new roles at Aycliffe are part of a region-wide expansion by the charity, which already employs nearly 1,000 people.

NEAS chief executive John Phillipson said: “Our existing staff have done an outstanding job in maintaining vital services, and keeping our schools open, throughout the pandemic, and we look forward to expanding our team so we can build on the support we are able to provide for autistic people and their families.”

The charity runs several schools across the region and its expansion has included the recent opening of a new school – The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, at South Bank, on Teesside. Another new school will open in the New Year at Kiora Hall, in Norton, Stockton.

“As we expand, we need to recruit a significant number of quality staff to deliver the high standards of care and education we are known for. The vacancies we are announcing for teaching assistants at Aycliffe is an important part of that recruitment process,” added Mr Phillipson.

“These roles come with lots of potential for progression, in an excellent working environment, and no one should be put off by a lack of experience in working with autistic and neurodiverse children and adults because we have a highly-respected training programme in place.

“These are challenging times economically, with lots of people finding themselves unemployed, so I would urge anyone interested in making a real difference to young lives to think about joining us.”

Irene Recseg, below, is a shining example of someone who decided to change her direction in life and joined NEAS as a teaching assistant last year.

The Northern Echo:

Irene had been working as a personal assistant for an entertainment business, but when that closed in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, she embarked on an “introduction to working in schools” course at Derwentside College – and that led to her role with NEAS.

“For ten years, I’d done voluntary work for a sports development company, so I’d been around children, and I was like a lot of people who were pushed into doing something different by the pandemic,” she said.

“The training was fantastic, and it gave me so much confidence. The support was even there after hours and I’m lucky to work with the most amazing team. It’s like a family with everyone looking out for each other.”

Irene is now urging others to consider a career change, adding: “My message would be to give it a try and you might surprise yourself. It’s hard work but it’s incredibly rewarding.” she said.