Special Education Needs, known as SEN, affects a child or young person’s ability to learn. It can include physical, social and behaviourial difficulties.
When a child experiences these struggles, they may need extra support from teaching staff. In fact, under Part 6 of the 2010 Equality Act all schools must remove discrimination from admission to enable children’s access to education facilities and services.
SEN schools cater specifically to the needs of children whose needs cannot be met within a mainstream setting. Established right across the UK, some of these schools specialise in different areas of need and tailor their own curriculums to support their pupils.
For example, some schools will work with young people with complex autism, and focus on providing them not only with their education but also get them ready for adulthood. One school we work with here at Charles Hunter Associates has a mock dentist, a bakery and a garden centre, to help students practice and prepare for the real world and situations that occur in everyday life.
Types of SEN Schools in the UK
SEN schools in the UK can be residential, where young people live 52 weeks of the year, similar to a boarding school. Most of these young people have such complex learning and physical disabilities that their families are unable to cater for their needs in their own homes.
There are also SEN schools that are run more conventionally as a typical Monday to Friday operation, with 8:30 am to 3:30 pm opening hours.
Some SEN schools are run as charities, whereas others are operated by Local Authorities. Whichever type of organisation is at the helm, the challenge for these schools is that they require a lot of funding and charitable donations to be able to provide the facilities their students need.
They generally cater for around 50-80 students in any given school, and staffing levels ideally need to match those numbers. For example, some of the more complex autism cases require one-to-one staffing.
Career Opportunities and Pathways Within the SEN Sector
Most SEN schools' jobs are Teaching Assistants (TAs). Compared to similar jobs in mainstream schools, the role of a SEN Teaching Assistant often combines care duties with teaching.
TAs, also known as Learning Support Assistants, will often adapt the curriculum depending on the needs of their students. This could involve adapting how to speak with students, whether they respond better to visual or verbal communication and the speed at which they can learn.
The care component normally involves taking regular breaks for personal care, provision of medication or support with feeding. Unlike mainstream roles where TAs finish when the children leave the classroom, SEN TAs provide care constantly throughout the day.
SEN professionals starting out in entry-level roles may be placed in a less-complex class. The more complex the needs of the child, the more direct care and support experience SEN workers will need to have.
For most SEN schools jobs, around six months to a year’s experience in an SEN or educational setting is usually required.
As TAs develop their experience in SEN, career options open up. The next step up is becoming a Teacher, either by going to university and receiving a formal qualification or through in-house training offered by SEN schools.
From there, Teachers can move into management positions. Similar to mainstream schools, there is a clear career path in SEN schools, working up from Teacher to Head of Department, and then to Deputy Head and finally Head of School positions.
Benefits of Working in SEN Schools Jobs
SEN Teachers and Teaching Assistants often have personal experience of SEN, either from their own children or family members. Others are seeking a role where they can provide care and support to vulnerable people within their community. Either way, the SEN sector is incredibly rewarding because professionals are able to see first-hand the impact they are making in a child’s life.
SEN schools often operate within regular work days and shifts, so they can appeal to professionals from a care background who are unable to commit to night and weekend shifts.
There are opportunities for both temp and permanent roles within SEN schools so jobseekers can decide which suits their lifestyle and commitments best. As with all roles, temp jobs will be paid a higher rate than permanent roles and can offer greater flexibility. A benefit for temporary SEN roles is there are plenty of roles available and there are opportunities to be placed in a job quickly. Many temporary assignments start as three months or six months rolling, but often last much longer than that.
Contact the SEN Specialists
Our team here at Charles Hunter Associates recruit both temporary and permanent staff into SEN schools in the UK on a regular basis. We have a strong focus on matching job seekers with roles and schools that best suit their experience and qualifications.
Charles Hunter Associates' commitment to compliance and the safeguarding of vulnerable children and young people saw us recently win the “Best Compliance Operation” at the Recruiter Awards.
If you’re looking to begin your first SEN teaching role, or are keen to take the next step in your career journey, get in touch with our friendly team today.