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Education

Special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistant

Special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistants support teachers to help children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Annual Salary

£12,621 to £23,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

30 to 40 term time

You could work: evenings; occasionally

8%
Future employment

There will be 8% more Special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistant jobs in 2026.
In your local area

Day to day tasks

In this role you may:

  • prepare learning materials under the supervision of the teacher
  • work inside or outside the classroom with individuals or groups
  • adapt support according to needs
  • look after children's physical, social and emotional welfare
  • create a stimulating environment
  • give information and help to teachers
  • keep records and attend review meetings
  • work with professionals such as speech and language therapists and physiotherapists
  • provide a safe and healthy environment and follow safeguarding procedures

Working environment

You could work at a school, at a special needs school or at a pupil referral unit.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • volunteering
  • applying directly
College

You can do a college qualification to help you get started, for example:

  • Level 2 and 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
  • Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education Early Years Educator
  • T Level in Education and Childcare

You may be able to get a placement working with children with special educational needs while doing your course.

Many people get qualifications or experience working with children in mainstream schools, then move into working with children with special educational needs.

Entry requirements

You may need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths for a T level
For more information
Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships relevant to this role include:

  • intermediate early years practitioner
  • advanced early years educator
  • advanced teaching assistant

Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements but it may help you to get in if you have:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
For more information
Volunteering and work experience

You could get experience by volunteering in a local school or with a community organisation. This can sometimes lead to paid work or a chance to get relevant qualifications.

Direct application

You can apply for special needs teaching assistant jobs if you have experience of working with children with disabilities or learning difficulties.

Each school sets its own entry requirements. Check job vacancies with schools, local authorities and academy trusts to find out what schools want.

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

More information

Career tips

It'll help if you have some relevant skills like communication methods including British Sign Language or Makaton. or have some understanding of the needs of pupils with disabilities or conditions like sensory impairments or autism.

The National Association for Special Educational Needs produces useful guides and runs training courses and events.

Professional and industry bodies

You could become a member of National Association for Special Educational Needs for professional development.

Further information

You can get more advice about working in special needs education through Mencap, the Royal National Institute of Blind People and Skills for Schools.

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Your school will give you access to specific training, like British Sign Language and Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) courses.

They may also provide training on conditions like dyslexia or autism.

With experience, you may take a course to become a higher level teaching assistant (HLTA).

With further study you could become a fully qualified special educational needs or mainstream teacher. You can learn about routes into teaching from Get into Teaching.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • sensitivity and understanding
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to enjoy working with other people
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • active listening skills
  • knowledge of psychology
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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