Special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistant

Special needs classroom assistant, special needs learning support assistant

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Special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistants support teachers to help children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Salary range: £12,577 to £23,000

How to become a special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistant

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • volunteering
  • applying directly

College

You can do a college qualification to help you get started, for example:

  • Level 2 and 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
  • Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education Early Years Educator
  • T level in Education

You may be able to get a placement working with children with special educational needs while doing your course.

Many people get qualifications or experience working with children in mainstream schools, then move into working with children with special educational needs.

Entry requirements

You may need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths for a T level

More information

Apprenticeship

You can get into this job through:

  • a teaching assistant advanced apprenticeship
  • an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in childcare
  • an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in supporting teaching and learning in schools

Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements but it may help you to get in if you have:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

More information

Volunteering and experience

You could get experience by volunteering in a local school or with a community organisation. This can sometimes lead to paid work or a chance to get relevant qualifications.

Direct application

You can apply for special needs teaching assistant jobs if you have experience of working with children with disabilities or learning difficulties.

Each school sets its own entry requirements. Check job vacancies with schools, local authorities and academy trusts to find out what schools want.

More information

Career tips

It’ll help if you have some relevant skills like communication methods including British Sign Language or Makaton. or have some understanding of the needs of pupils with disabilities or conditions like sensory impairments or autism.

The National Association for Special Educational Needs produces useful guides and runs training courses and events.

Professional and industry bodies

You could become a member of National Association for Special Educational Needs for professional development.

Further information

You can get more advice about working in special needs education through Mencap, the Royal National Institute of Blind People and Skills for Schools.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • sensitivity and understanding
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to enjoy working with other people
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • knowledge of psychology
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

In this role you may:

  • prepare learning materials under the supervision of the teacher
  • work inside or outside the classroom with individuals or groups
  • adapt support according to needs
  • look after children’s physical, social and emotional welfare
  • create a stimulating environment
  • give information and help to teachers
  • keep records and attend review meetings

Working environment

You could work at a pupil referral unit, at a special needs school or at a school.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.

Career path and progression

Your school will give you access to specific training, like British Sign Language and Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) courses.

They may also provide training on conditions like dyslexia or autism.

With experience, you may take a course to become a higher level teaching assistant (HLTA).

With further study you could become a fully qualified special educational needs or mainstream teacher.

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