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Looking To Become A Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistant? Here’s How

SEN teaching assistant helping SEN student

A special educational needs teaching assistant (also known as an SEN teaching assistant) works with SEN teachers to help support students who have learning difficulties. For example, students that may require extra support are those with autism or dyslexia. 

To help students achieve their learning goals, SEN teachers and teaching assistants will use various strategies according to each student’s physical or mental disability.

SEN teaching assistants need certain personal qualities to effectively support their students, such as empathy, patience, and good communication skills. Additionally, they need to be able to adapt easily, obtaining new skills to assist with their teaching, such as learning braille to help support blind students. 

If you feel that you have the above traits and the desire to support special educational needs students, then ActiveSEN has more details on the SEN teaching assistant jobs that are typically available in schools. 

Are you still intrigued? Then, consider the points below on how to become an SEN teaching assistant.

1) Take a Teaching Assistant College Course

Below are various courses that will help you to achieve a qualification relevant to teaching SEN students.

a) Level 2 and 3 Certificate in Supporting and Teaching and Learning in Schools

These courses are suitable for someone who is at the start of their teaching career. The Level 2 and 3 Certificates in Supporting and Teaching and Learning in Schools are nationally-recognised qualifications and the material covered provides the minimum standard required of teaching assistants. 

These qualifications can be achieved through a college or by gaining a placement in a school. 

A lot of SEN teaching assistants start by working in mainstream schools, then, once they’ve gathered more experience and the qualifications/skills needed, they move on to working in SEN environments.

Two or more GCSEs in grades A* to D (or equivalent) are usually required to enrol in a level 2 course. Four or more GCSEs in grades A* to D are typically required to enrol in a level 3 course.

b) Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education Early Years Educator

This course provides the knowledge needed for a teaching assistant to work with students from birth to age 5. 

The diploma is suitable for those starting their careers in teaching and for those wishing to progress to higher education.

Again, this will enable an individual to gain the experience required to support students in mainstream education before moving on to work in an SEN environment.

Four or more GCSEs in grades A* to D (or equivalent) are typically required to enrol in a level 3 course.

c) Level 2 and 3 Teaching Assistant

Completing a Level 2 Teaching Assistant course is an ideal starting point for anyone wanting to embark on a career in teaching and who are needing to gain that first qualification. 

Upon completing the Level 2 course, the Level 3 Teaching Assistant course could be the next step to take.

This course will further a person’s knowledge and skills as a teaching assistant, and upon qualifying, it will put them a step ahead of the competition. The teaching assistant will gain more in-depth experience in how to successfully support teachers and students in the classroom as well as give them the skills to be able to take full responsibility for a class if the cover is needed. 

A GCSE English at grades A* to C (or equivalent) is generally required to enrol in the above courses.

2) Enroll on a Teaching Assistant Apprenticeship

To help you gain the necessary experience required to be a teaching assistant, along with achieving a relevant qualification, you could consider embarking on an apprenticeship.

For example, an apprenticeship as an intermediate early years practitioner or advanced teaching assistant would help you gain classroom experience, which most employers find vital when seeking to fill teaching assistant vacancies, particularly in an SEN environment.

For intermediate apprenticeships, it would be useful to have at least a GCSE in English and Maths. For advanced apprenticeships, five or more GCSEs would be desirable.

3) Volunteer as a Teaching Assistant

Enrolling in a teaching course or starting a teaching assistant apprenticeship may not instantly expose you to special educational needs students; you may be only gaining skills and learning teaching methods that are useful in mainstream schools. This is why you may want to consider voluntary work.

Any voluntary experience that you can gain within a special education needs environment, whether that be at a school, community centre, or a similar SEN setting, will help you when applying for SEN teaching assistant jobs. 

Demonstrating your willingness and initiative to work voluntarily will show prospective employers that you are passionate about a future in SEN.

4) Apply to be a Teaching Assistant Directly through a School

Person completing a SEN teaching assistant application form

If you already have experience supporting and teaching SEN students with various learning difficulties, along with relevant qualifications, then it may be possible to apply for an SEN teaching assistant job directly through a school.

Every school will have different requirements, but the more skills you have as well as proof of your ability to adapt to your student’s learning needs, then the more successful you’ll be in achieving an SEN teaching assistant position within a school.

SEN Teaching Assistant Jobs

ActiveSEN has several jobs available, so if you’re interested in supporting special educational needs students, then search and apply for our SEN jobs today. 

Alternatively, submit your CV to hear about the latest SEN teaching assistant vacancies.

For advice on how to write a personal statement (the section placed at the top of your CV beneath your contact details), then read How To Write A Personal Statement For An SEN Teaching Assistant Role, which includes 5 tips to help you effectively apply for your desired job.

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