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What Is It Like To Be An SEN Teaching Assistant

SEN teaching assistant using laptop tablet teaching SEN student

SEN teaching assistants play an important role in the education of SEN children, which has a positive impact on the student’s future. 

Many areas fall under the term SEN (special educational needs), such as Dyslexia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder as well as any disabilities and impairments. This means that more and more children are being identified as having special educational needs.

Because of this rising need, teaching assistants for SEN schools are in high demand; their versatile skills are necessary to help students achieve their individual learning goals.

Teaching students with special educational needs can be challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding, particularly when children’s confidence grows as they make progress in their learning.

If you are interested in becoming an SEN teaching assistant, or you’re considering applying for an SEN job, then continue reading to gain a deeper understanding of what the role entails.

Why are SEN teaching assistants so important?

SEN teaching assistant helping student with emotions

As mentioned, SEN children have different needs due to their learning difficulties or disability, so varied teaching methods are required to help them achieve their individual goals. This is where SEN teaching assistants play an important role.

SEN teaching assistants have the versatility (hopefully acquired through training and experience) to be able to cater to students’ varied needs. They learn to quickly adapt to a situation and they have a portfolio of creative ways to teach students depending on what their learning difficulty/disability is. 

Additionally, SEN teaching assistants are usually very effective communicators; they need to be able to clearly and calmly communicate to students who may have difficulty focusing or listening. 

Also, having a clear communicator as a role model can help children to develop their communication skills, which will assist in building their confidence and their ability to interact with others.

What are the main responsibilities of an SEN teaching assistant?

SEN teaching assistant helping child with music

There are many responsibilities of an SEN teaching assistant. Overall, they need to be able to support SEN teachers to ensure a safe and effective learning environment is maintained. 

Below are just a few of the responsibilities of an SEN teaching assistant:

  • Identify every student’s needs and provide an individual learning plan catered for them.
  • Support students outside of the classroom. For example, communicating with the child’s parents, working with them to ensure learning is consistently met at home as well as in the classroom, and adjusting the learning plan with them when necessary. 
  • Monitor students’ behaviour and implement techniques to help them deal with their emotions. 
  • Provide physical as well as personal support.
  • Encourage students to embark on independent learning.
  • Keep up to date with teaching methods and be proactive in acquiring new skills.

What is a day in the life of an SEN teaching assistant?

Every day as an SEN teaching assistant will be different; the students’ needs will determine the priorities.

However, below is what an average day will involve:

  • Preparation of learning resources during the pre-class meeting with the other teachers and TAs.
  • Providing student support under the SEN teacher’s supervision.
  • Implementing personal development plans for each SEN student.
  • Ensuring every child’s needs are met, adjusting the teaching method if necessary.
  • Recognising signs of distress and acting quickly to maintain control of the classroom.
  • Ensuring that the student’s safety and welfare are safeguarded at all times.
  • Attending to the physical needs of the students. 
  • Encouraging every child to help build their confidence.
  • Providing consistent feedback to parents and other professionals who are involved in the student’s development and learning plan.
  • Completing relevant paperwork at the start and end of the day

What are the average working hours of an SEN teaching assistant?

SEN teaching assistants will typically work 5 days a week, Monday to Friday, which is not dissimilar to other teachers’ working hours.

However, since extra support may be needed, some evening or weekend work could be required. So, an SEN teaching assistant’s hours will be at least 30 hours per week.

What is the average salary of an SEN teaching assistant?

Like most jobs, the salary will depend on location as well as the experience and training of the individual. 

So, an SEN teaching assistant’s salary can vary between £12,600 and £23,000. This entirely depends on what area you choose to work in as well. For example, SEN jobs in London will be on the higher end of that salary, whereas in the home counties such as Kent, it is more likely to be within the lower to mid-range.

What do I need to be a Successful SEN teaching assistant?

There are many courses available that an individual can enrol in if they want to become an SEN teaching assistant. 

Firstly, they could gain a degree in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities BA. 

With or without a degree in a relevant field, an SEN certificate, Level 2 or Level 3, is mandatory for an individual wishing to teach SEN students in public schools.

Then, to further any knowledge acquired, and to put them ahead of the competition, an individual could go on to study for a PGCE. For example, a PGCE Primary Education with Specialism in SEN with QTS course, or a Prep PGCE course, would enable an SEN teaching assistant to support students aged 7 to 14.

Above all, having experience in an SEN environment is vital; any firsthand knowledge gained is what will assist an SEN teaching assistant in building a portfolio of teaching techniques and varied skills.

Additionally, the personal traits required of an SEN teaching assistant (which they should hopefully possess) will be developed through experience in an SEN environment.

These personal qualities include being:

  • A strong communicator
  • Versatile 
  • Effective at solving problems
  • Physically fit
  • Flexible and open to trying new teaching methods
  • Confident in behaviour management
  • Kind, sensitive, and empathetic
  • Quick to notice signs of distress
  • Patient

Read one of our other blogs to find out more about how you can become an SEN teaching assistant.

Looking for an SEN teaching assistant role?

If you’re looking for a position as an SEN teaching assistant, then view the SEN teaching assistant jobs that we currently have available and apply today!

Alternatively, submit a CV if you’d like to hear about all of the SEN opportunities that become available.

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