Teaching in a SEND school

Teaching in a SEND School Setting

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) schools are specifically for children and young people whose capacity to learn is affected by their behaviours or ability to socialise, their reading and writing skills, their cognition, learning difficulties, concentration levels and/or sensory or physical needs.

There is a high demand for SEND teaching professionals throughout the UK, so if you have a compassionate nature and are passionate about working with children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities, then a SEND school may be the ideal work environment for you.

SEND school settings

A lot of children with SEND will attend their local, mainstream school with specific individual support, often from a designated Teaching Assistant, to ensure they reach their full educational potential.

On the other hand, children with multiple SEND will generally attend schools that are designed to cater for their specific learning needs. These children will need support with their communication, interaction with others, cognition, and learning. They may also have social, emotional, mental health, sensory and physical needs. The curriculum in a SEND school is very different from that of a mainstream school and most pupils learn through play and sensory activities.

There are some SEND schools that further specialise to reflect the specific needs of the children they help, for example Autistic spectrum disorders, visual impairment, or speech, language, and communication needs (SLCN).

The usual working hours of SEND teaching staff are Mondays to Fridays, 8.30am-3.30pm during term time. However, you may be required to stay later or work at home to prepare lessons for the following day and to assess pupils’ work. 

The qualifications needed for a SEND Teaching Assistant are:

  • 5 GCSEs, including English and Maths, at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent.
  • Experience in supporting children of the relevant age.
  • A fluent level of spoken and written English.
  • An enhanced Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) check.

For a SEND Teacher the essential qualifications are as above plus:

  • An Undergraduate Education degree OR a degree in any subject and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) OR Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE – Scotland).
  • Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • Previous in-school teaching experience.

What is it like to work in a SEND school setting?

Within the job role of a SEND Teacher, you would be expected to work closely with the Head Teacher and relevant governing bodies to create a safe, stimulating, and supportive learning environment. You would also need to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made for the pupils and that access arrangements meet the requirements of the Equality Act (2010).

Another part of the role is to liaise with external professionals, such as social workers, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, and educational psychologists, making sure each pupil gets the appropriate support for their needs. Building a rapport with the pupils’ parents, carers and guardians will allow you to work closely with them on the development plan for each child.

SEND school pupils range in age from 4 to 19-years-old. However, the educational requirements of children with SEND are often outside of their chronological age group. The holistic approach to teaching SEND will consider the differing abilities of each pupil and provide an education that is appropriate to their individual needs.

Examples of the kind of learning disabilities you could work with in a SEND environment are physical disabilities, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), autistic spectrum disorders, emotional or behavioural problems, visual impairments, speech or language and communication needs (SLNC), Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), anxiety, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and other medical or genetic conditions.

To work well with SEND pupils, you will need to have a sense of humour, intuition, patience, confidence, and compassion. Good communication and organisational skills are a must, as well as being a creative person who can improvise when situations change. As this role can be very demanding, it is advised that you set aside time for your own needs and ask for help when you need it.

Typical job roles found in SEND school settings

SEND Teachers

SEND Teachers are involved in teaching either individuals or small groups of pupils. They will need to prepare lessons and resources, mark and assess work, and develop teaching methods to meet the individual needs of pupils.

They will also be expected to use special equipment and facilities, such as audio-visual materials and computers to stimulate interest in learning and use specialist skills, such as Braille or sign language and lip reading.

Click here to find out more about being a SEND Teacher.

Qualified mainstream Teachers with SEND experience

Some SEND schools may recruit newly qualified Teachers or mainstream Teachers who have had in-classroom experience of working with SEND children.

Teachers can also undertake additional training to teach pupils with special educational needs. Specific qualifications are required for teaching those with multi-sensory, hearing, or vision impairments.

SEND Teaching Assistants (TA) and Learning Support Assistants (LSA)

The role of a SEND TA is to support the SEND teaching staff to provide access to learning for all pupils with special educational needs. In this role it is possible to gain a wide range of teaching experience and develop your teaching methods and approaches.

Successful TAs and LSAs can have a huge impact on a pupils’ social and emotional development, assisting with their learning, and helping them to expand their understanding of the wider world.

Click here to read our SEND Teaching Assistant Job Description.

Special Needs and Disabilities Coordinator (SENDCO)

To become a SENDCO you will need to be an experienced Teacher who is passionate about championing pupils with special educational needs. Your role will include assessing and identifying the needs of SEND pupils, supporting Teachers to develop learning programmes, and overseeing the implementation of those plans.

You would be expected to make referrals for pupils who need support from professionals from outside the school, such as health and social care providers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and physiologists.

Read our interview with a SENDCO to find out more about this specialist role.

Working as a SENDCO, SEND Teacher or Teaching Assistant, can be challenging, but the reward and satisfaction gained from working closely with children who have special educational needs, seeing them progress with their learning and improved behavioural or socialisation skills, will give you a huge sense of achievement.

SEND jobs are suited for people who want to give something back, are innovative with their teaching methods, can recognise the individual strengths and talents of each child, and who will celebrate each accomplishment and milestone with them.   

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