What is Special Educational Needs (SEN) Teaching?
A Special Educational Needs (SEN) teacher works closely with children and young people who need extra support with their education, because of a disability or mild to moderate learning difficulties. This could take place in a special school; currently, about 2% of school-age children attend a special school. It could also mean teaching children with special educational needs in a mainstream setting.
Why Train to Be a Special Educational Needs Teacher?
There are lots of reasons to consider SEND teacher training in Sheffield. As with teaching in other settings, the job satisfaction can be immense. You get to make a lasting difference to young people’s lives and, given the additional challenges they face, this can be even more rewarding.
You will have to draw on a range of skills and use your initiative to think creatively, to try and engage your students in multiple different subjects. You will develop specialist knowledge, meaning you can be a resource for both colleagues and parents to draw upon.
The teaching skills you learn in a specialist setting form the basis of high-quality teaching throughout the education system. You will find that a number of career pathways open up to you - not just within special educational needs teaching.
What is Life Like as a Special Educational Needs Teacher?
The students you work with 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. You might also work with exceptionally gifted and talented pupils who are challenged by a standard learning environment. Whoever you work with, your challenge is to use your ingenuity to help these students reach their full potential.
Typical duties for a SEN Teacher could include:
- Teaching national curriculum subjects
- Helping students develop self-confidence, independence and abilities
- Researching and creating teaching materials and lesson plans
- Developing appropriate learning activities
- Aiding teaching with specialised learning equipment
- Assessing students’ progress and providing feedback
- Working with medical staff, therapists and psychologists
- Encouraging and guiding development
- Communicating with parents and carers about a child’s progress
- Attending meetings, statutory reviews and training workshops
- Organising outings, social activities and sporting events
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.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Special Educational Needs Teacher?
As with any teaching role, you will need to have a respect for children and a desire to help them achieve their potential, as well as excellent organisational and communication skills. You will also need to be able to adapt to changing situations, reacting calmly and with patience.
What Do We Cover in SEND Teacher Training?
We have developed our course in conjunction with a group of special schools, resulting in a specialised programme of training that complements academic input but also uses the strength and expertise of the staff and schools in our alliance.
The government’s 2015 Carter Review into Initial Teacher Training included recommendations based on a pilot scheme we delivered to improve SEND training for trainees. We now offer SEND training as part of all our teacher training courses, not just this specialist one.
Our course is a combination of hands-on experience, professional learning and academic study over a one-year period. You will record evidence of your progress towards Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in a professional development portfolio.
This includes training in university, via STSA's professional learning courses, and as part of your school placements, as detailed below:
Our academic partner is Sheffield Hallam University, whose course is rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. At university, you will gain a thorough understanding of current Science, English and Mathematics teaching, allowing you to meet the demand of primary education. As part of the course, you also gain 60 credits towards a Masters qualification. Academic work is assessed by written coursework assignments and you will be assigned an academic tutor, who will support you throughout the year.
In STSA Professional Learning Courses
We run a number of STSA professional learning sessions throughout the year. These days are a great opportunity for our trainees to come together, catch up and share their experiences. Our trainees tell us that this is a highly valued part of our course.
Sessions particularly relevant to SEND teacher teaching include:
- SEND and inclusion
- Role of SENCO
- Child development
- Early Maths and Literacy skills
- The primary curriculum
- Outdoor learning
Examples of other topics covered include:
- The Professional Teacher
- Lesson/scheme design
- Assessment: marking and feedback
- Data collection and analysis
- Barriers to learning
- Organisation of self
- Behaviour management
- Building resilience
- EAL and new arrivals
- Communication with parents
- Planning for transition
The STSA team are on hand throughout the course to help you with any issues or questions you may have.
During your School Placements
Our course includes high-quality placements in two of our partner schools, providing experience in contrasting settings – which is part of the Department for Education (DfE) regulations for Initial Teacher Training (ITT). Your main placement is approximately 24 weeks over the academic year, whilst your complementary placement is approximately 6 weeks.
Trainees spend two-thirds of the year in a special school setting. There are currently eight special schools who offer placements, providing a range of specialist settings, including working alongside children with disabilities.
You will have your own mentor in each school, who will meet with you regularly and provide support and advice. They will also assess your teaching in school.
You can find out more about what to expect on our course here.
Some teachers incorporate their Special Educational Needs training into their teaching in mainstream schools. Others prefer to teach only in special schools or alternative provisions. After gaining relevant experience, some special needs teachers apply for roles as the Head or Deputy Headteacher of a special needs school. With the rise of multi-academy trusts, there are now roles that have responsibility for SEN across a number of schools. SEN roles are also always available in private schools and education referral units, hospitals and custody centres.
You may want to consider becoming a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO). SENCOs are a key part of the school workforce and play a fundamental role in supporting children and young people with SEND. To be a SENCO, you'll need to be a qualified teacher and complete the National Award in Special Educational Needs Coordination (NASENCO) within three years of taking up a SENCO post.
Special Needs teacher, Ruth, says:
“I originally worked in Graduate Sales and Management Training in the City and found it lacked creativity. I’ve now been teaching for 25 years and moved from my mainstream subject role to specialise in Special Needs. I‘ve worked as a mainstream secondary English teacher, a Special School teacher, a peripatetic advisory teacher, an exam marker, a nursery co-ordinator for an Integrated Resource and now teach deaf/Deaf children using BSL (British Sign Language). You never know where your interests will lead you!”