How to Become a SEN Teaching Assistant?

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Teaching assistants (TA) play a pivotal role in the classroom. This is especially true when it comes to supporting pupils with SEN teaching assistants. SEN stands for “Special Education Needs”. SEN teaching assistants work with pupils that have a wide range of behaviour and learning challenges. Every single day is going to be different. This means depending on the individual and the situation, they adapt to varied approaches. As such, SEN teaching assistants can be a crucial difference-maker in the lives of children and young people with disabilities or learning difficulties. This is why they are highly valued teaching team members, and their roles are very much sought after in today’s job market.

But how do you become a SEN teaching assistant?

And, what exactly do they do?

This is what we’re going to discuss today.

What you first need to understand is that Special educational needs (SEN) covers more than just learning disability.

Special educational needs (SEN) can affect a child or young person’s behaviour, reading and writing, concentration levels, ability to understand things, or their physical ability

gov.uk (2016)

Not all children and young people with SEN have a learning disability. According to the official data from 2018, 67,765 children in England with a statement of SEN or an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan had a primary SEN associated with a learning disability.

The percentage of pupils with an EHC plan has increased to 3.7% in 2021. We have observed this trend of incremental increases since 2017. Prior to this, the rate had remained steady at 2.8%. The most common type of need for those with an EHC plan is Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

The percentage of pupils with SEN but no EHC plan (SEN support) has increased slightly, from 12.1% to 12.2%, also following an increasing trend. The most common type of need for those with SEN support is Speech, Language and Communication needs.

The data mentioned above were collected through the-

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As you can see, SEN Teaching Assistant is one of the most in-demand professions right now as more and more children and young people are in need of these professionals.

Whether you want to help children with special needs or have a fulfilling career at the same time, becoming a SEN Teaching Assistant is an excellent option for you, as you can do both at the same time.

SEN Teaching Assistant Skills

If you’re looking to become a teaching assistant, it’s viewed as a general category job in the UK. But SEN teaching assistant is regarded as a more sensitive job as you will be dealing with students with special education needs. As a result, it’s a relatively well-paid job.

A SEN teaching assistant will need to match all the same qualifications as that of a teaching assistant though you’ll need some extra skills too. Let’s introduce some of them down below in no particular order-

There’s a reason why I introduced you to these skills before anything else. Because it’s highly likely for SEN teachers to meet challenging situations where they’ll need these skills to manage a classroom or anything of this sort well. If you, for example, lack patience or empathy, you’ll most likely hate your job. So knowing the skills that you’ll need and the roles, you will assume beforehand will help you make an informed decision.

Now, onto the next important point-

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SEN Teaching Assistant Skills

If you’re looking to become a teaching assistant, it’s viewed as a general category job in the UK. But SEN teaching assistant is regarded as a more sensitive job as you will be dealing with students with special education needs. As a result, it’s a relatively well-paid job.

A SEN teaching assistant will need to match all the same qualifications as that of a teaching assistant though you’ll need some extra skills too. Let’s introduce some of them down below in no particular order-

There’s a reason why I introduced you to these skills before anything else. Because it’s highly likely for SEN teachers to meet challenging situations where they’ll need these skills to manage a classroom or anything of this sort well. If you, for example, lack patience or empathy, you’ll most likely hate your job. So knowing the skills that you’ll need and the roles, you will assume beforehand will help you make an informed decision.

Now, onto the next important point-

Roles and Responsibilities of SEN Teaching Assistants

Primarily, a SEN teaching assistant is there to support the teacher and aid the pupil in developing their understanding. But this simple sentence does not cover everything that you’ll do in a typical workday. Let’s give you some examples-

SEN Teaching Assistants

How to Become a SEN Teaching Assistant?

Qualifications of A SEN Teaching Assistant

To start out as a SEN teaching assistant, you can choose a number of ways. You’re not really limited by your academic or professional background, as there will always be a way to train and earn the qualifications needed to become a SEN TA. Let’s explore the different ways to get into this role. You can get into this job through-

1.  A college course

2.  An apprenticeship

3.  Volunteering

4.  Applying directly

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1. College courses

A college qualification can help you get started on your journey to becoming a SEN TA. The types of college courses you need to look for include-

While doing some courses, you may be able to get a placement working with children who have special educational needs to help boost your knowledge and abilities.

Entry requirements for these courses

Depending on the course that you chose, you may need-

2. An apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are another excellent way to become a SEN teaching assistant. You’ll have lots of hands-on experience as you’ll be working directly with other SEN teachers. The tasks they give you and the general guidance you’ll receive will give you a more sumptuous feel as to what working in a school entails.

Apprenticeships that are relevant to this role include-

As of now, there are no set entry requirements for entry into an apprenticeship. But, with that being said, you may have a greater chance of being accepted if you have-

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3. Volunteering

Volunteering can also get you the relevant experience for the chance of getting a job as a SEN TA. You can volunteer-

Volunteering can not only provide you with paid work but also the opportunity to gain relevant qualifications too.

4. Direct application

If you already have experience working with children who have disabilities or learning difficulties, you can apply for special needs teaching assistant jobs directly. There is no set requirement in this case. Each school sets its own requirements with relevance to its own academic activities and learning standards.

Check the job vacancies to learn about these requirements and if they fit you well. If you can open up a good line of communication between yourself and the school, that’ll undoubtedly help greatly.

teaching assistants

Additional information

Career tips

If you want to ensure that your qualifications are seen more favourably, you can also learn some additional relevant skills like communication methods including-

Professional and industry bodies

Becoming a member of the National Association for Special Educational Needs will also help you in the case of professional development.

Career Path & Progression

If you want a good understanding of what your career as a SEN TA will entail, look at the progression in this role and similar opportunities. It’ll give you a good idea of how to advance your career.

They may also provide you with some further training on conditions like dyslexia or autism to help you understand your pupils a bit more.

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Fully Qualified SEN Teachers

Difference Between SEN Teaching Assistants & Fully Qualified SEN Teachers

Let’s explore the differences between SEN teachers and SEN teaching assistants. The major differences lay in the roles that they assume in the institutions and their responsibilities.

SEN teachers-

SEN teaching assistants-

So like the title of their name, SEN teaching assistants work to supplement the works of the SEN teachers or teachers in general. Their expertise helps alleviate the pressures off of the teachers. 

They also assume the responsibilities of other everyday school tasks. A fully qualified teacher can also do those tasks, but their expertise is better spent where it is needed the most and tasks that less qualified people cannot do. There’s a reason why the roles of teaching assistants exist. Over time these teaching assistants gain the relevant experience and expertise to become fully qualified teachers.

So, although teaching assistants shoulder some of the burdens of the fully qualified teachers, it is ultimately the teachers who will be made responsible for the learning progress of all the children of a class and will be scrutinised for how teaching assistants are utilised in the classroom.

Salary of a SEN

Salary of a SEN Teaching Assistant

The national average of a SEN teaching assistant salary is £17,000.

When starting out, you can expect your earnings to be around £12,500, and once you gain some experience, this will rise up to £23,000. However, your salary will vary depending on the organisation and your location.

Conclusion

Special Needs Teaching Assistants are highly valued members of the teaching team in any school or organisation. Their roles are very much sought after in today’s job market. The skills and the passion of the SEN teaching assistants can make a massive difference in the lives of children and young people with disabilities or learning difficulties.

Mainstream schools, independent schools or special needs schools- all kinds of educational institutions need them. They support the SEN teachers in teaching their pupils to face global challenges.

You may have noticed that your options are pretty straightforward to become a SEN teaching assistant. But your individual strengths and skills will play a huge role in this. So make sure that you read this blog well to familiarise yourself with those personal skills as well as the qualifications needed to become a SEN teaching assistant.

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