How to become an SEN teacher
If you’re interested in supporting children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, special educational needs (SEN) teaching could be for you. The role is sometimes referred to as a special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) teacher. In this rewarding role, you’ll play an important part in the education and care of children with different needs.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to become an SEN teacher, from the necessary qualifications to desirable skills and experience. Whether you’re a teacher with a background in a traditional school environment, or you’ve recently qualified, you’ll find everything you need to know if you’re thinking about specialising in SEN.
What is an SEN teacher?
SEN teachers work with children and young people who require extra learning support. Students can have physical disabilities; social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH); speech and language difficulties; sensory impairments; learning difficulties (such as dyslexia); or neurodivergent conditions such as autism or ADHD.
The class sizes are usually smaller than those in mainstream teaching. You’ll prepare and deliver lessons, assess work, and directly assist students with their academic and social needs. Looking after their welfare is key to helping them reach their full potential. This can mean helping pupils to feel secure and content in the classroom, providing them with a positive experience that helps them to thrive. It will also involve adapting the curriculum and learning environment, to help remove barriers to school performance and ensure pupils have full access to necessary resources.
As an SEN teacher, you can often personalise the curriculum and have additional freedom in how you deliver learning. This is because you’ll be accommodating the individual needs of students under your care, as well as adapting classes to their interests to keep them engaged and establish strong relationships.
How to become an SEN teacher
There are specific steps you’ll need to take if you want to be an SEN teacher. You can pursue this work straight from university or choose to go down this route after gaining experience in traditional teaching roles.
Jobs can be found in SEN schools or mainstream schools, within either classrooms or dedicated units. This work can also be based in independent schools, learning support teams, young offender institutions, children’s homes and hospital schools.
You would typically be employed by a local authority (LA). However, you could be self-employed or freelance as an SEN teacher. You can take on supply teaching positions, or work around your day job to supplement your experience and income. This can include home tutoring or taking on consultancy work.
If you want to take this career route, we’ve outlined how to become an SEN teacher below.
What qualifications do I need?
There are various university courses that will give you your qualified teacher status (QTS). At undergraduate level, these include a Bachelor of Education (BEd), Bachelor of Arts (BA) with QTS or Bachelor of Science (BSc) with QTS. If you have a degree in another subject, a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) can also lead you to QTS. You can also apply for a teaching apprenticeship.
There is an additional qualification you’ll need if you’re teaching children with visual, hearing, and multi-sensory impairment. This is known as the mandatory qualification in sensory impairment (MQSI).
An Enhanced DBS certificate is also required to be able to practise as an SEN teacher.
What experience do I need?
You could look to become an SEN teacher after becoming qualified at university level. However, it may help your employability if you’ve had experience working with children of all abilities, in traditional teaching work.
If you haven’t worked in a specialised role before with SEN students, you could enhance your prospects by contacting schools to see whether you can undertake work experience.
If you’re not yet qualified, you could pursue a teaching assistant role to gain experience.
What skills do I need?
There are a range of skills that will help you to succeed as an SEN teacher. As well as core teaching knowledge and abilities, you’ll need to be confident with creating bespoke curriculums and be an excellent communicator.
Flexibility is valuable, as you’ll have to adapt your approach to different students. SEN teachers also need a high level of empathy, as children may have a traumatic past or might have had negative experiences in their education so far.
Good observational skills are a must too, as you keep track of how all children are responding to each lesson and recognise when they need additional support. Good organisation is essential, as is patience and a positive attitude.
SEN teachers also have to be confident enough to challenge the behaviour of children when necessary, being firm and keeping control of the classroom while acting in students’ best interests.
SEN teaching roles with Liquid
At Liquid, we currently have a wide range of SEN teaching roles at leading organisations around the UK.
With a wealth of experience in the sector, you’ll benefit from the industry knowledge of our highly trained team as we look to match you with your perfect role. Your dedicated consultant will take the time to get to know you so that they fully understand your unique skills, experience, and career goals.
Register with Liquid online and we will get in touch to discuss the opportunities we have available.
As the leading social work recruitment agency in the UK, Liquid has hundreds of jobs in social work available. Browse our vacancies and apply today.
A positive attitude
A positive attitude is also essential. An SEMH teacher’s commitment to their students’ progression should be underpinned by positive reinforcement. Recognition and praise will help children to stay motivated and continue progressing.
At the same time, you’ll have to be resilient and have a good knowledge of how to handle challenging situations. You will have to assert healthy boundaries and be confident in de-escalating disruptive behaviour. You should also be able to provide effective alternatives to discipline for managing challenging behaviour.
Strategic planning and implementation skills
Your performance in the role will also be helped by strategic planning and implementation skills. You’ll often have more freedom than a mainstream teacher in how you deliver lessons, create long-term education plans and establish systems for recording and monitoring performance. The role will also involve aspects such as bringing innovation to the school curriculum and breaking through barriers in delivering learning.
How to become a SEMH teacher
If you’re looking into SEMH teacher jobs, it’s useful to know that SEMH is a type of special educational need, therefore falling under the category of SEN teaching. You would usually be employed by a local authority or trust.
Anyone with a degree and qualified teacher status (QTS) can look to become an SEMH teacher. You would need to have studied for a Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a BA/BSc with QTS. If you studied something else at undergraduate level, you can gain a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). You can look at courses with a particular focus on SEN teaching.
You could pursue SEMH teacher roles after working in mainstream teaching. Alternatively, you could look to start your career specialising in this area if you have the appropriate qualifications. However, it is important to know that some schools may not recruit teachers into SEMH positions if they don’t have prior experience in mainstream teaching.
Your employability will be helped by first gaining employment in a general educational setting. You could approach schools about carrying out voluntary work too. There is also a scheme available in England called Get School Experience, which places teachers in work experience with primary or secondary schools.
SEMH job opportunities at Liquid
At Liquid, we’re passionate about helping you to find your next role. Your career matters to us, so we go the extra mile to help you take those exciting next steps.
Not only will we assign you a dedicated recruitment consultant, but we will also provide the resources and support to help you continue developing professionally. We’re experts in your field, so we know how to help you get ahead in the sector.
Register with Liquid Personnel today and start your career journey with a leading social work and healthcare recruitment agency.
As the UK’s leading social work recruiter, we offer the widest range of qualified temporary and permanent roles throughout children’s and adults’ services.