How To Become A SEN Teacher – Explore Career Paths

If you are reading this, you probably know already how rewarding and fulfilling experience it can be to build a career in Special Educational Needs. 

To change a kid’s life who will need all the extra support and guidance, to help them unlock their potentials to succeed in life.

Sure, there are challenges to guide a kid with special needs, but ultimately, the experience itself is the reward worth your effort.

If you want to help a child to overcome their learning disabilities, and have a keen interest in the teaching profession, we’ve covered the roles and responsibilities of SEN teacher, the essentials skills and qualifications required.

So, here is our guide on how to become a SEN teacher in the UK.

The roles and responsibilities of a SEN Teacher

Along with the responsibilities of teaching a child with special needs, there are several other roles a SEN teacher will have to play. You must have the abilities to adapt, show patience and become creative in ensuring the well-being of the child.

10 roles and responsibilities of a SEN teacher are expected

  • To be able to teach the existing national curriculum.
  • Able to teach pupils individually or as a group, in both classroom facilities and outdoor settings.
  • Research, develop and modify the curriculum and teaching methods according to the requirement.
  • Adapting teaching lesson and plans to fit into pupil’ss abilities.
  • Are skilled to access and utilise specialised learning equipment.
  • Able to assess children’s progress and ability to provide necessary feedback and encouragement.
  • Maintain liaison with professionals of relevant fields, such as language therapists, psychologists, child health specialists, and social workers.
  • Collaborate and share ideas with parents, other teachers, and specialist counsellors to improve the pupils learning abilities and ensure success.
  • Responsible for carrying out administrative tasks.
  • Organise activities to help the pupils feel more confident and involved, such as excursion tours, social awareness activity, outdoor classroom, and sports events.

Qualifications of a SEN teacher

To be placed in any state-funded primary, a secondary or special school in the UK, a SEN teacher must have a Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), and thus a bachelor degree. It also makes you eligible for any private-funded schools. Although, it is also possible to get hired in some SEN private schools may not follow the same regulations.

If you don’t have an academic degree, you can always take up a Bachelor of Education or BA or B.Sc. degree to achieve QTS.

Experience in teaching in mainstream schools or as a teacher’s assistant or part of an internship program will be an advantage for you to be placed in a maintained school or any private ones.

4 Steps to become a SEN teacher

  • Earn a specialised or conventional degree
  • Gather teaching experience as a TA or apprenticeship program
  • Apply for the QTS to make yourself eligible for any school.
  • Find and apply for SEN teaching positions.

Furthermore, to teach children with functional physical disabilities, such as vision impairment, hearing impairment, or multi-sensory impairment, you have to undergo some mandatory training courses offered by state-approved institutes.

This is a mandatory qualification, and you can learn more about the specifications and providers list here.

Career opportunities as a SEN teacher

 Although the career itself is built upon an individuals’ passion for helping and educating children with special needs, there is no denying of the monetary opportunities.

According to Adzuna, the average salary ranges from £30,163 to £41,272 depending on the locations in the UK, whereas by the totaljobs claim, the highest salary can be up to £49,439 with an average of £44,221.

SEN Teachers are entitled to an allowance of between £2,209 and £4,359 per annum. Apart from that, they would receive extra if the job requires travelling frequently.

The salary range can vary depending on the locations of the schools, maintenance status (state-funded or private), the teachers’ experience and qualifications.

You should expect to travel if the job requires you to teach at multiple facilities, although, in most cases, you will be needed to stay in proximity of one school without much opportunity to move.

SEN teachers are employed all over the UK with the possibility to teach abroad, in countries where the same curriculum is followed.

Opportunity to freelance your Skill and knowledge is possible, especially as a home tutor or special educational needs counsellor.

You can take up roles of SEN Teaching Assistant, Special Educational Needs & Disabilities Teacher (SEND), SEN Behaviour TA, SEN Learning Support Assistant SEN Teacher or as a SEN Co-ordinator (SENCO).

A qualified SEN Teacher can also take up roles in health institute schools, juvenile correction facilities, SEN training centres, individual education units or learning support teams.

How to become a SENCO?

Special educational need co-ordinators are responsible for heading the SEN department, implementing SEN policies, and supervising day-to-day activities of the school facility for SEN pupils. They also progress to other senior management roles as they gather experience and skills in SEN.

To hold the position of a SENCO in a mainstream school, firstly, you must have a QTS, and you have to achieve a National Award in Special Educational Needs Coordination within three years from the date of appointment. The award is equivalent to a Master’s.

10 skills required to be a SEN Teacher

1. Empathy

The first and foremost essential quality to pursue a career in Special Educational Needs is to have empathy for children and try to understand the life they lead, their perspective towards the world. Only then you will be able to understand their pain and difficulties and make a difference in their life. 

2. Dedication and commitment

Teaching and looking after special educational needs, children often can be quite challenging. You would have to be repetitive on some instruction; sometimes, a kid would throw a tantrum like any other kids. After a hard day of work, you might not see the result immediately.  But you can’t give up. You should be fully committed to work towards the betterment of the children so that they can be better prepared for the life ahead.

3. Communicative and interpersonal Skill

Being able to communicate with conviction and clarity is one of the fundamentals of the teaching profession. It is of even more significance when you have to play the role of special educational needs teacher. There would be a tantrum, conflict, and disagreement between kids; you have to learn to confront such a situation without causing any emotional damage.

Moreover, some pupils could have speech disabilities and speak in BSL or have a hearing impairment. You would have to be prepared to communicate in their language and understand them.

4. Team working Skill

As a SEN teacher, you would have to collaborate with multiple concerned bodies, for instance, the parents, other teachers, social workers, healthcare personnel, and governing bodies. You would also have to seek suggestion and provide insight with physio and cognitive therapists. Everyone as a whole has to work as a team for the benefit of the child.

5. Flexibility

Your job responsibility is to educate and equip children with knowledge, help them access their untapped potential. The whole process can be tricky because, firstly, they are kids. And secondly, they are kids with special needs.

So you may have to prepare, adjust, and adapt your lesson, and approach the pupils differently. You may have to come up with a new plan or adjust them every time.

6. Observation Skill

As a SEN Teacher, you will have to understand and interpret the pupils so that you can identify their discomfort, and area’s you have to work on to help them better. You would have the responsibility to identify any children who may have some disability to some level and facilitate the necessary support. 

7. Administrative Skill

As a teacher in any functional institute, you will be responsible for maintaining regular reporting, paperwork, analytical function to assess progress, and other administrative maintenance roles are given to you. It is often a prerequisite to making progress to a more responsible position in the school administration.

8. Organisational Skill

Organisational skills are a mix of soft skills and hard skills. They are a set of must-have skills to excel in any industries and any profession. Professionals who habituated their work-life with essential skills like time management, adaptability, smart goal setting ability, leadership, resource management and continues to develop their personal development skills are destined to be the leader in their respective trade.

These skills are even more essential to have in the trade of teaching, since, for the students to learn from, the teacher must poses and exhibit such qualities.

9. Creative problem-solving Skill

Modern life, be it at work or our personal life, rarely follows a straight-line formula. It demands you to be creative not only to solve a problem but also to identify the root and reason. 

Sure, a SEN Teaching role is not quite the typical cut-throat corporate profession, and it shouldn’t be. But the children you would be managing are naturally creative. To solve their problems and any potential barriers that may hinder their growth, you must also have to learn thinking creatively. Check out our in-depth discussion on Creative Problem Solving And How To Get Started to learn more.

10. ICT Skill

Basic IT and Web skills are expected of you, regardless of the career path you choose to pursue. For instance, MS Office proficiency, basic Internet Browsing proficiency is usually assumed to be instilled in any graduated candidate.

 More importantly, for pupils with visual or hearing impairments with learning difficulties, assistive ICT can reduce many of the barriers to help them succeed.

Check out this assorted page for Assistive ICT for SEN in schools by the Herefordshire Council.

These skills help you manage yourself better as a SEN Teacher or SENCO, at the same time, grow as a professional.

Professional development to become a SEN Teacher.

Even if you have just started exploring or already gained a few years of experience in teaching, you can always use more insight, development, training and most importantly hone your skills with more preparation. In your heart, you know you want all the best for your pupils, but to do that you have to become the best.

Special educational needs books

To educate the special needs children and help them grow unperturbed, you cannot exactly go by the conventional method. How to nurture them properly is still a matter of research, and the development is continuously progressing. Expert researchers and SEN professionals share their knowledge through seminars, research papers and special needs education books.

You can start with the SEN books to learn and be better prepared for the career ahead of you. Apart from Amazon, you can also get special educational needs books from the following resources in the UK.

  • Bloomsbury
  • The Book People
  • SEN books

Legal obligations and requirements in the UK

SEND guide by the Government of UK

Special Educational Needs and Disability Guide covers everything you need to know about SEND regulations and legal requirements in the UK, for teachers, schools, parents, and funding information for special educational needs and disability our children.

Children and Families Act of 2014

Get familiar with the existing changes in the law, especially the reformed Children and Families Act 2013, part 3. It explains the duties and responsibilities of local authorities, healthcare facilities, and educational institutes to children with special educational needs and disability.

UK SEND Tribunal

The SEND Tribunal (Also known as First-tier Tribunal) decides on the appeals submitted against local authorities decision regarding a child or young person’s special educational needs. It is of much importance that you understand the procedure clearly and learn the strategic points to help a pupil get the best outcome out of such tribunals.

The following video playlist explains the SEND Tribunal; it is prepared by the HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) part of the UK Government’s Ministry of Justice.

SEN Teaching Training

There are some graciously prepared courses on SEN Teaching available online, developed by experts with years of experience to help you understand the ins and outs, learn the best practices adopted by professionals and various strategic points regarding your career as a SEN teacher. You can learn at your own pace since most of them are accessible.

You can gain valuable lesson, experience and gain confidence from the courses, along with a certification that recognises your training. Make sure the course is endorsed by a recognised rewarding body or Accredited in the UK to stand you in good stead for your career.

February 26, 2021

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