Guest blog written by Sasha Das Gupta, SEN teacher, EduStaff
A career in special educational needs will be both rewarding and exciting. With so many different schools catering to so many different needs, those who work in SEN schools can expect a lot of variety with new challenges every day. One of the most rewarding elements of working in SEN is the chance to develop strong personal relationships with people whilst promoting their independence, supporting their areas of additional needs and assisting them to overcome the difficulties they face.
If you are interested in starting a career in special needs education there are several things you should consider first. It helps to think about what sort of SEN school you feel you would be most suited to as there are many different types that, confusingly enough, go by a variety of names.
A Pupil Referral Unit (or PRU) is a holding school between mainstream and SEN schools, when a pupil is excluded they are transferred to a PRU. From there, they will be evaluated so they could end up being reintegrated into a mainstream school or sent on to an SEN school that has been created to help with their specific needs. When it comes to specialist SEN schools they usually come under one of three categories. Here’s what EduStaff’s SEN team think is expected from candidates applying for entry level jobs in each of the SEN schools.
- Learning and Developmental Difficulties and Disabilities
These are the pupils with special needs like Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Global Developmental Delay (GDD), Dyslexia, Dyscalculia or Dysgraphia.
“Patient and compassionate individuals with strong communication skills, that will help them inspire students. Patience is key as you may have to repeat the same information in several different ways to help pupils learn”.
- Physical, Medical and Sensory Needs
These schools cater to pupils have serious illnesses or physical disabilities. As well as those with any type of sensory impairment like blindness or deafness. Many schools in this category will specialise in one particular area like blindness.
“Previous experience in care work is highly preferable in these schools as the pupils may need support with things like gastro intestinal feeding, Bipap machines or even toileting.”
- Mental Health and Social and Emotional Needs (PRUs are also part of this category)
These are the schools for students with PTSD and other psychological difficulties as well as Emotional Behavioural conditions like Bipolar and Depression.
“The ability to remain calm at all times and be empathetic to your pupils, many of whom may have had traumatic times at home. You should not take things personally and enjoy reaching out and build strong relationships with the pupils you work with in order to provide pastoral support.”
In addition to the characteristics already mentioned, it is helpful to develop some initial experience working in a similar area as a volunteer or in a paid role. The sort of experience that will help you standout includes the following:
- Family Members with SEN.
- Working with young people in youth groups.
- Care work: helping the elderly with their medical needs.
- Volunteering at children charities.
- Working with youth offenders.
- Working with victims of substance misuse.
- Caring for stroke victims.
Roles like these will help you develop the fundamental skills for working with SEN students and as many of these roles are voluntary, you should be able to find something to suit the specifics of what you are interested in. Supporting stroke victims, for example, will help you learn more about speech and language therapy. Whereas work with young offenders and substance misuse victims would be useful for those of you interested in mental health and social and emotional needs.