Training as a SEN teacher can lead to a rewarding career helping young people achieve their goals, but sometimes a pupil will require extra support to reach their full potential. A special educational needs teacher is the person who can help provide that support.
What is a SEN teacher?
A special educational needs teacher (SEN) works closely with children and young people who, because of a disability or mild to moderate learning difficulties, need extra support with their education.
Most of the current job applications for SEN teachers offer flexible hours of work, and reasonable pay rates, in return for the ability to build a close relationship with learners and their families, as well as an ability to teach a different number of subjects on a 1:1 basis. You can apply for the following roles: SEN teaching assistant, SEN tutor, and SEN learning support worker.
What to expect from the job.
Students could have physical disabilities such as hearing, sight or speech impairment or they may have behavioural or learning difficulties such as autism, dyslexia or ADHD.
Equally, SEN teachers also work with exceptionally gifted and talented pupils who are challenged by a standard learning environment Working with individuals on a one-to-one basis is a crucial part of the role, and it is SEN teachers’ responsibility to ensure learning takes place in a safe and supported environment.
It is also up to their ingenuity to find ways to effectively stimulate their pupils' learning and development process in accordance with their individual needs.
SEN teachers teach national curriculum subjects, mark and discuss work, prepare lessons and teaching materials, liaise with other professionals such as other teachers and medical staff, work alongside the parents and help develop students’ confidence and abilities.
How to become a SEN teacher.
SEN teachers are fully qualified teachers with experience of teaching in mainstream classrooms. You will need to achieve Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) before you can go on to train as a SEN teacher.
There are several ways you can gain QTS:
A Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) which you can study for after obtaining an academic degree. PGCE is an additional academic qualification that includes QTS.
By gaining a Bachelor of Education or BA/BSc with QTS.
Through School-Centred Initial Teacher Training, School Direct or Teach First. These are all different school-based qualifications which allow you to gain experience in a school while working towards QTS.
As well as having QTS you must have a SEN qualification that is not older than three years and you may need specific qualifications if you are working with children with particular disabilities such as visual or hearing impairments.
Patience and understanding, are the essential traits, ever SEN teacher needs to have to thrive at their work. You will also need to be an excellent communicator, an organised, and creative team player to meet the responsibility of the job.
Note, that some children might have difficulty communicating their emotions, so it is up to a SEN teacher to sense any underlying problems and deal with them. Thus, it is essential you maintain highly sensitive and responsive approach when it comes to working out how best to support your students learning and development.
Aside from common teaching skills – communication, patience, teamwork, leadership, organisation – you will also need to have a calming nature. SEN pupils can become distressed and to teach them properly you need to be able to keep them calm.
Experience of working with vulnerable people or those who need extra care to reach their full potential is always highly beneficial.
Most of the opportunities for SEN teachers arise in mainstream state schools and depending on the size of the school you might remain as one or become a coordinator who manages other SENs. After gaining relevant experience, you could eventually apply for roles as the head teacher or deputy head teacher of a special needs school.
SEN roles are also always available in private schools and education referral units, hospitals and custody centres.
When it comes to earnings, according to the Salary Track, as of August 2018, around 50 % of SEN job postings in London offer a salary of more than £33K a year.
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