From SENCOs to teaching assistants, working with children and young adults with Special Education Needs (SEN) can be challenging yet incredibly rewarding.
As of January 2023, there are over 1.5 million pupils in England alone with SEN, an increase of 87,000 from the previous year. This is a role that still has the highest burnout rate amongst teaching staff, as the many challenges it comes with mean it is not the role for everyone. For those who relish that challenge and want to make a difference, this blog looks at what it is like to work as a SEN specialist.
Not your everyday role
As part of the SEN team, you will work with children or young adults who find learning more difficult than others. You may find that you are teaching children to have mild learning difficulties, it may be that they have physical disabilities, including visual or hearing impairments, or they may have emotional or behavioural problems.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t teach the curriculum – this is still a requirement, and you must ensure that all of the children that you work with have access to that curriculum in a successful learning environment. However, you will also need to understand how you can meet the specific needs of the child and work alongside their family and often other healthcare professionals in order to develop the appropriate learning activities for their development.
This can often be a role where patience is a virtue. You may find that you need to try several techniques, or that every day presents a new learning challenge, and you must be passionate and enthusiastic about what you do. At the end of the day, the rewards are huge – as you get to make a real difference in children’s lives.
Why do you get that extra job satisfaction?
When you get to work with children who are unsure themselves about what they are capable of and then seeing them achieve what feels like the unachievable is incredibly rewarding. Unlike many pupils, you can see the differences that you make when working with SEN pupils day after day. There is simply nothing better than watching a child with special educational needs to master an activity sometimes after hours of trying, and knowing that you had an active part to play in their development. You really can make a direct and positive impact.
In a SEN setting, you will typically be working with smaller classes and will often conduct lessons on a one to one basis. This means that you can build very strong personal relationships with your pupils, and you can see the investment of your time in nurturing them and helping them grow. Because every SEN pupil has different needs, you will find out that a one size fits all approach doesn’t work, and you will discover the key to unlocking their individual needs.
Unleash your creativity
One thing that certainly does set SEN teaching aside from other teaching roles is that whilst you need to ensure that you meet the curriculum, you have much more freedom in terms of how you teach it. As you tailor your methods around the individual child, you will constantly be looking for different and inspiring ways of unlocking their potential. This means that you need to be creative in your approach. It may be sensory activities or playful activities that help to develop fine motor skills; you may find that it takes a blend of approaches to help with the learning, but one thing that you won’t find is a dull day!
Interested in finding out more?
Working with children who can have a variety of special needs isn’t always easy, and it certainly isn’t the job for everyone, but for the right person, this can be a hugely rewarding career choice. At Envision Education, we are proud to be a specialist agency in SEN recruitment, and we work with some fantastic schools to recruit a variety of SEN roles, so if you are already an SEN specialist and are looking to further your career, or if you are looking for your first role within a SEN environment, please get in touch. You can give us a call on 0203 771 1138 or browse our SEN vacancies here.
Editor's note: This blog was originally published in September 2020 and has been updated for accuracy.