If you're a teacher or teaching assistant considering a move into the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) sector there are plenty of opportunities available for those with the right skills and experience.
Working in SEND can be an incredibly rewarding experience. This practical guide offers insight into working in special needs, including why it's such an interesting sector to work in, and the steps you can take to transition from mainstream education into SEND.
Why Special Needs is an Interesting Sector to Work In
First, it's important to understand why special needs is such an interesting and rewarding sector to work in. Here are just a few reasons:
You get to make a real difference in children's lives. Working in SEND is about helping children with special needs reach their full potential. Whether you're working as a teacher or teaching assistant, you'll be able to see the impact of your work every day.
You'll be part of a supportive community. The SEND community is incredibly supportive, and you'll have the opportunity to work with other professionals who are passionate about making a difference in the lives of children with special needs.
You'll develop new skills. Working in SEND requires a unique set of skills, including patience, empathy, and the ability to adapt to each child's individual needs. As you develop these skills, you'll become a more well-rounded educator who can work effectively with a wide range of pupils.
It's a growing sector. As more and more children are diagnosed with special needs, the demand for qualified professionals in this sector continues to grow. This means there are plenty of job opportunities available for those with the right skills and experience.
Now that you understand why special needs is such an interesting sector to work in, let's look at the steps you can take to get into SEND.
Step 1: Volunteering
One of the best ways to gain experience in SEND is to volunteer with a local organisation that supports children with special needs. This could be a charity, a support group, or even a school specialising in SEND.
Volunteering will give you the opportunity to work with children with special needs in a real-life setting, and it will help you develop the skills you'll need to succeed in the SEND sector. It will also give you a chance to network with other professionals in the field and learn more about the different job opportunities that are available.
Step 2: Drawing on Mainstream Experience
If you're currently working in mainstream education, you may already have some experience working with children with special needs. Even if you haven't worked directly with SEND students, you may have had pupils in your class who have had additional needs
Drawing on this experience can be a great way to show potential employers you have the skills and experience necessary to work in SEND. For example, you may have experience creating differentiated lesson plans, working with students with behavioural difficulties, or providing extra support to struggling pupils.
Step 3: Looking at Your Broader Life Experience
Don't underestimate the value of your broader life experience when it comes to working in SEND. For example, if you have experience caring for a family member with special needs, you may have developed skills such as patience, empathy, and the ability to communicate effectively with people who have different communication needs.
Similarly, if you've worked in a customer service role, you may have developed skills such as problem-solving, conflict resolution, and the ability to work well under pressure - all of which can be valuable in the SEND sector.
Step 4: Continuing Professional Development (CPD) from Protocol Education
Protocol Education offers a range of CPD courses specifically designed for those working in the SEND sector. These courses cover topics such as autism awareness, behaviour management, and sensory processing, and they can be a great way to enhance your skills and knowledge in this area.
Completing CPD courses shows potential employers that you're committed to your professional development and that you're passionate about working in the SEND sector. It can also help you to develop the skills you'll need to succeed in your new role.
Step 5: Support of Local SEND Specialist Teams
Finally, it's important to seek out support from local SEND specialist teams. These teams can provide you with guidance and advice on how to transition into the SEND sector, as well as information on job opportunities and training programs.
You can also reach out to SEND specialists on social media or attend networking events to learn more about the sector and make connections with other professionals.
Moving into special needs is a practical and achievable goal for teachers and teaching assistants passionate about helping children to reach their full potential. By volunteering, drawing on mainstream experience, looking at your broader life experience, completing CPD courses, and seeking support from local SEND specialist teams, you can successfully transition into the SEND sector and make a real difference in the lives of children with special needs. To find out how we can support you, contact your local branch.