What To Expect From An SEN Teaching Role
If you’ve ever considered an SEN teaching or teaching assistant role but you’re worried about what to expect, read on to gain a little insight to see if it is a career path suited to you. Working with children with special educational needs in schools can be an incredibly rewarding but equalling challenging field and as a teacher or teaching assistant it can be a daunting aspect to dive into at first. Whether you’re a supply teacher, NQT / ECT or a teaching assistant, working in an SEN school might be completely novel to you but you are keen to explore it. As specialists in SEN recruitment, education recruitment agency, Initial Education, have outlined the top things to expect when working in an SEN school for the first time.
“When I first came into the special sector, people told me a lot about what pupils couldn’t do and I felt they knew what they couldn’t do. I always wondered what they might do.”
Mr Britten, Headteacher on BBC’s Life in a Special School
You’ve got to have Patience
The saying ‘the patience of a saint’ has never been more relevant when working with special needs children. When working in an SEN school, you’ll fast begin to notice that each student has their own way of learning and interpreting information and being patient with this is crucial. Dyslexia and Autism, amongst other learning disabilities, make learning more challenging for young children, meaning that more often than not they require extra time, patience and reassurance in the classroom. You will find that some students have shorter attention spans than others as they sit down to complete a task and quickly deviate from it, whilst others will require your attention elsewhere and so remaining calm and patient in order to put out one fire at a time is one of the best things you can do.
Every day is different
As part of the team in an SEN school, your day to day will consist of working with and assisting young children with learning difficulties, whether they be physical, emotional, behavioural, visual or hearing. As a supply teacher in an SEN school, you won’t be expected to provide a lesson plan, however adapting to individual learning plans and altering your teaching style to suit the differing abilities in your class is expected. Unlike mainstream schools, SEN schools tend to have smaller class sizes (6-12 students) along with a higher staff to student ratio so you won’t be left on your own
Working in an SEN school is SO rewarding
Whilst the prospect of stepping away from a mainstream school to a special school for an SEN teaching or SEN teaching assistant job may seem daunting, it can be one of the most rewarding things you do during your teaching career. Supporting the children that need it most, you will have the chance to have a real impact on a child’s learning, opening the doors for them to explore future opportunities that they didn’t believe possible. Watching a child come out of their shell, master a skill they have been struggling with or simply connecting with and building relationships with those around them can some of the most rewarding events you witness. Be prepared to be inspired by the sheer determination your students exhibit on a day to day basis, despite the challenges they face, we can guarantee your day will be made up with laugher and smiles from those around you.
Language and communication are crucial elements to succeeding within an SEN school and it is regularly seen as good practice to apply simple and accessible language whilst avoiding coming across as patronising. Try breaking down tasks into shorter, more digestible sentences and adapt your approach if you discover some students are still struggling. If you are working as a 1:1 teaching assistant in an SEN school, be sure to ask the class teacher what communication techniques are best to use, some children will comprehend everyday communication, whilst others might communicate most effectively though eye movements or technology, so outline this before you begin so that you can hit the ground running.
Makaton is a technique used by students that are non-verbal or struggle with communicating verbally and it’s an invaluable communication technique in SEN Primary schools. Many SEND schools will have students that communicate through British Sign Language (BSL), whilst you won’t be asked to use this method if you do not know it, be prepared for students to use sign language within the classroom. Whilst BSL is designed to assist those with hearing impairments, Makaton plays an essential part in supporting spoken language, featuring elements of BSL interspersed through sentences.
If you are going into an SEN school to work as a 1:1 TA or as a teacher, pupil profiles are essential on your first day. A pupil profile details a student’s educational and medical needs, alongside an analysis of their specific motivators in order to keep children engaged and focussed on the task in hand. Expect to arrive at your school early and take a look through the pupil profile and discuss any other behaviour with staff before school starts – profiles aren’t always updated daily so its important to have the most up to date information.
The number of pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) make up 15.5% of the population and this is increasing year on year. With an abundance of SEN teaching and teaching assistant roles available, if you’re a passionate and enthusiastic teacher looking for a new challenge, there’s no time like the present. Indeed as a SEND teacher you pick up a host of valuable and transferable skills that can contribute to making you so much more employable in your future career, wherever it may take you. If you are a resilient teacher or teaching assistant looking for a new challenge, get in touch with SEN specialist, Becky, at Initial Education today to find out what opportunities we have available in SEN schools.