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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

£14,000 to £23,000

Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

30 to 40 term time

You could work: evenings; occasionally

Future employment

There will be 5.4% more Special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistant jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

As an SEN teaching assistant, you could:

  • prepare learning materials
  • adapt teaching support according to student's needs
  • look after children's physical, social and emotional welfare
  • create an interesting environment for students
  • keep records and attend review meetings
  • work with professionals such as speech and language therapists

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

You could 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 Early Years

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

To become an SEN teaching assistant, you could do the:

  • Early Years Practitioner Level 2 Intermediate Apprenticeship
  • Advanced Teaching Assistant Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship
  • Early Years Educator Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship

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.

Volunteering can sometimes lead to paid work or a chance to get a qualification.

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. You can check job vacancies with schools, local authorities and academy trusts to find out what schools are looking for.

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

More information

Career tips

It'll help if you know different ways to communicate, such as British Sign Language or Makaton. It's also helpful to understand what students with disabilities or conditions need. This could include sensory impairments or autism.

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

Professional and industry bodies

You could become a member of NASEN to find professional development opportunities.

Further information

Many teaching assistants have term time only contracts.

You can get more advice about working in special needs education through:Mencap; Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB); 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 could 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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