Teaching Assistants (TAs) are essential elements of any classroom. Any teacher will tell you how critical TAs are critical for keeping the day running smoothly (not to mention their own sanity(! The role of a teaching assistant is becoming a highly sought-after position, meaning competition can be tough.
The role of a TA in a Special Education Needs (SEN) environment is all about collaborating with the class teacher to support pupils with physical, behavioural or learning difficulties. Working as an SEN teaching assistant can be physically and emotionally challenging at times, but people entering the career will soon realise it is also one of the most rewarding careers on offer.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already thinking about working as a TA in an SEN school. If you’re not quite sure where to start, these five simple steps should guide your path to becoming a SEN teaching assistant.
1. Know what it takes to be an SEN Teaching Assistant
To work in SEN, you need bucketloads of patience. Educating children and young people with varied and complex needs is an extremely rewarding, but frequently challenging vocation. Before embarking on your journey in SEN, make sure you have researched what you will be doing day-to-day as a learning support assistant assistant and the kinds of qualities schools are looking for. Most schools will be looking for caring, creative and understanding individuals with the resilience to deal with episodes of challenging behaviour.
If this is a new path for you, you should get acquainted with the roles and responsibilities of a TA. Coming in armed and clued up on what to expect as a SEN TA will help you walk your next interview.
2. Get the relevant experience
You may already have a ton of transferrable skills for the SEN sector, if so, great! You’re ready to move onto step 3. But if this is new territory for you, it’s worth looking into how you can gain relevant experience.
You could gain SEN experience through voluntary work at a school in their learning support department. Alternatively, you could step further outside the box and look for positions as a play worker for children with disabilities. Any experience you can get helping and supporting children or adults with additional needs would make a great addition to your skill set.
If you have any experience working with children, you may already have a meaningful head start. At the very least, you’ll have a talking point for an interview, even if your experience is not specifically in special needs.
Think back to your time working with children - did any children in your care have additional needs you had to consider in your practice?
3. Brush up your CV
Your teaching assistant CV is your chance to really wow the school or recruiter you are applying for and show them you are the best fit for the job. Be sure to highlight any experience you have working with children or any educational experience. Even just helping your own children (if you have any) understand concepts from the homework!
Make sure to emphasise your strong points, particularly in SEN. Schools will be looking for people with specific talents they can share with their pupils, so if you have a passion for music or a black belt in karate, don’t be afraid to include it in your CV.
4. Search for jobs
So you have the experience, and the CV to match. Now it’s time to hunt for teaching assistant roles.
Every year, Protocol Education helps thousands of people find SEN teaching assistant jobs. With hundreds of vacancies across the UK, our consultants will work with you to find the right position in the right place for you.
5. Start working as an SEN teaching assistant!
So now you’ve got to the interview stage, your future career is nearly within reach. While experience and qualifications are desirable to schools, many recruiters will be looking at your personality. If you can show the interview panel you are patient, kind and understanding, it will be a big tick for them, with extra points if you have a great sense of humour!
Be sure to brush up on your knowledge of special educational needs and how you can support learning for pupils with SEN. You might want to do some research in, for instance, the best teaching methods for pupils with ADHD, as well as a few essential behaviour management strategies.