back to blogs

4 Principles That Every SEN Teaching Assistant Needs to Know

About 3 months ago By Alex Schulte

4 Principles That Every SEN Teaching Assistant Needs to Know

​Every teaching assistant, whatever type of school they work in, should take stock of their skills in working with children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). The most recent figures show that 12.2% of pupils in English schools receive SEN support, with 3.7% requiring an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan.

Every teaching assistant in the country either currently works with at least one SEN pupil or is certain to do so very soon. TAs are already classrooms’ most frequent first responders when it comes to managing pupil behaviour. Their experience in maintaining norms of conduct, plus their closer, less formal bonds with pupils make teaching assistants integral to many schools’ SEN support strategies.

A child’s condition could be any combination of the four types of special needs: physical, developmental, behavioural/emotional or sensory impaired. This means that TAs can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.

While TAs should always differentiate as much as possible, there are certain universals that should guide your practice. Whether you’re a dedicated SEN teaching assistant at a special school or working in a mainstream setting, these core principles will help you empower the pupils who need it most.

1. It all starts with mental health

The classroom isn’t just a place to learn a set curriculum. Our experiences at school shape our social and emotional development and, with them, our futures.

Unfortunately, heightened stress and anxiety are a part of life for many SEN children. Without strong adult presences to support them through their struggles, these children can fall behind their peers, losing hard-won progress and precious self-confidence.

Every teaching assistant should equip themselves with a toolbox of strategies to boost young people’s mental health. The best TAs have both a theoretical grasp of the factors that can hinder children’s wellbeing and a practical set of techniques to remedy them.

Teaching assistants who work with Protocol Education have access to a range of accredited CPD training courses designed to develop educators’ understandings of mental health among children.

2. Help pupils get used to group work

Those issues around self-confidence and self-esteem can manifest in withdrawn behaviours in pupils with SEN. Teaching assistants can help these pupils expand their comfort zones by supporting them in group work.

For more solitary children, the prospect of working in groups of their peers might feel like a torment. Yet the social skills that group participation engenders are critically important. Part of what makes a good SEN teaching assistant is supporting these pupils in their efforts to engage and work with other learners.

When it comes to group work, there are two options: mixed ability and ability grouping. However, students must be exposed to a range of learning contexts, including whole-class work and individual work, which will prevent them from becoming passive learners.

 

3.  Centre the individual

A well-functioning school gives every pupil the chance to grow into a happy, autonomous individual with a sense of their own self-worth. TAs have a big role to play here.

Person-centred learning is a relatively new term referring to a very old idea: that education is at its best when it responds to the traits, talents and strengths of each individual learner.

For TAs, this means actively involving SEN pupils in the discussion about their learning. Giving kids the sense of a stake in their own education helps them grow their independence and feel more in control of their future.

‘Special education needs’ is a broad umbrella term, encompassing some very distinct conditions, difficulties and disabilities. Proper differentiation and a person-centric classroom technique will help ensure that no child gets left out.  

4. Praise positive behaviour

Classroom behaviour runs in both vicious and virtuous cycles. When negative behaviour is not addressed carefully, it can end up being reinforced and embedded in patterns. But when good conduct is acknowledged and appreciated, it can help set a more positive precedent. This is particularly true for pupils with a history of challenging behaviour.

Effective praise is a critically important behaviour management strategy. Praise takes three general forms: personal, effort-based and behaviour specific. Yet not all of these are areated equal.

Personal praise zeroes in on the child’s core traits and talents, but an undue focus on abilities that are inherent to the child can make them and other pupils feel like they can’t improve or change.

Much more important is to provide effort-based and behaviour-specific praise: praise that recognises pupils work to improve and excel.

As well as delivering direct praise, learning support assistants working with SEN pupils should be adept at giving the more subtle signals that can give pupils the praise and reassurance they need to contribute productively to lessons. For instance, if a pupil with a track record of challenging behaviour is managing to control potentially disruptive impulses and maintain their attention, a simple thumbs up or a smile from a TA will acknowledge correct behaviour without distracting other students.

Find an SEN teaching assistant job with Protocol Education

These principles will hold true for any teaching assistants who work with SEN pupils. If you’re ready to put them into practice in a mainstream school, we’ve got a range of teaching assistant positions available in primary schools, secondary schools or as part of the National Tutoring Programme.

If you’re looking for a role where you’ll work primarily with SEN pupils, take a look at our SEN support jobs. If you can’t find the right position, get in touch and we’ll find it for you.

Whatever your ambitions are, our dedicated SEN branches and consultants can help you make them real. 

This Teaching Assistant CV will help you land your next job
23 May 22, by Eloise Gladwyn

This Example Teaching Assistant CV Will Help You Land Your Next Job

Download example teaching assistant CV here​When it comes to job hunting, a great CV is your best friend. With just...

Read More
The Top Traits of an Effective SEN Teacher
16 May 22, by Eloise Gladwyn

The Top Traits of an Effective SEN Teacher

​Effective Special Educational Needs teachers are a special type of person. You will be teaching and supporting some of society’s...

Read More
Microsoft Teams Image (28)
12 May 22, by Scott Owen

Protocol Education's Educator Festival

​Come to our Educator Festival! This term, Protocol Education is holding an Educator Festival, a series of events that will...

Read More
How Teachers Can Manage and Reduce their Workload
10 May 22, by Eloise Gladwyn

How Teachers Can Manage and Reduce their Workload

​As every educator finds out in their own time, teaching can be exhausting. A teacher’s to-do list is rarely complete,...

Read More
I Stock 181086033 Min
04 May 22, by Eloise Gladwyn

What Is the Average Salary For A UK Teacher?

​Are you about to make a whole new move into the world of education? Or perhaps you’re currently working as...

Read More
I Stock 1297509194 Min
25 Apr 22, by Alex Schulte

Adapting Your School’s Catch Up Tuition Programme For The Summer Holidays

​The summer term is upon us, and with it comes the final stage of this academic year’s edition of the...

Read More
I Stock 1007214476 Min
20 Apr 22, by Eloise Gladwyn

4 Behaviour Management Strategies Every Teacher Should Know

​Remember your first day as a teacher. Was it the curriculum material itself that seemed most daunting? Or was it...

Read More
Tutor Working With Middle School Student Picture Id1130407049 (1) Min
19 Apr 22, by Alex Schulte

The NTP’s Funding Model is About to Change: Here’s Why That Matters For Your School

​The Education Secretary has announced a major overhaul of the funding structure for its flagship catch up tuition scheme, the...

Read More
I Stock 679417234 Min
12 Apr 22, by Eloise Gladwyn

How To Gain Experience as a Teaching Assistant

​Do you love spending time helping children succeed? Do you feel an abiding passion for education and learning but don’t...

Read More
Protocol Education Win Investors in People Silver Award for Strong Culture of Professional Support
11 Apr 22, by Alex Schulte

Protocol Education Win Investors in People Silver Award for Strong Culture of Professional Support

​Protocol Education is proud to announce that we have been awarded Investors in People’s Silver ‘We invest in people’ award....

Read More
Summer wellbeing tips for teachers: 5 ways for healthy and happy holidays
04 Apr 22, by Ruth Bell

Easter Wellbeing Tips for Teachers: 6 Ways for Healthy and Happy Holidays

Just like everyone, teachers need to relax and recuperate. Whether we call it switching off, relaxing or resting, taking time...

Read More
I Stock 1387531789 (2)
04 Apr 22, by Alex Schulte

Join Us at our Easter Educator Events

Over the Easter holiday, we're running a series of in-person and online events for our educators in our network of...

Read More
I Stock 1267280072 Min
01 Apr 22, by Alex Schulte

The Big Changes You Need to Know from the DfE's SEND Review Green Paper

This week, the Department for Education released their long-awaited SEND and alternative provision Green Paper. Titled ‘Right support, right place,...

Read More
Inclusive practice in a classroom: a teacher helps a boy with Downs syndrome use a microscope
28 Mar 22, by Alex Schulte

How Supply Teachers Can Use Inclusive Practice to Make Lessons More Accessible

​Today marks the start of World Autism Acceptance Week. Educators and school leaders alike should use the next seven days...

Read More
How to Plan for your First Term as an Early Career Teacher
21 Mar 22, by Alex Schulte

How to Plan for your First Term as an Early Career Teacher

Your ECT induction period is your chance to get to grips with the world of teaching. You have two whole...

Read More