Every teacher will carve out their own career path as they grow and develop as an educator, and there are as many different routes to take as there are individuals to take them. If you’re looking for the next challenge in your teaching career, you might consider taking your vocation to a Special Education Needs (SEN) school.
SEN schools generally have smaller class sizes and a higher staff ratio, due to the additional needs of the pupils, so many teachers report feeling that they have more of an impact on each individual. Getting to see your pupils strengthen their self-confidence, independence, and abilities over time can be hugely rewarding. SEN schools also offer unrivalled opportunities for extra training in specialist educational and healthcare skills which are more difficult to attain in mainstream schools.
SEN is a catch-all phrase for a myriad of different schools, and each school will typically focus on a particular specialism. SEN schools will generally specialise in either sensory impairment (deaf or blind schools, for example), physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, or behavioural/emotional difficulties. Each of these schools, and the pupils within them, come with their own rewards and require their own type of extraordinary teacher.
At an SEN school, teachers will receive experience and training which is specific to the specialism of that school. For example, at a sensory impairment school, teachers will be required to learn skills such as braille or British Sign Language (BSL). Schools which work with children with physical disabilities may have a therapy pool or specialist equipment, and will require you to become proficient in using them safely. Mainstream schools are unlikely to have the equipment or the funding to train teachers in these skills, so working at an SEN school is a great way to pick up these unique teaching competencies.
However, teaching in an SEN school also comes with its own set of unique challenges which you will encounter less often, if at all, in a mainstream school. In order to succeed as an educator within an SEN school, you will need:
SEN schools give teachers more freedom to work with the curriculum creatively, as you come up with strategies to help a pupil get the most out of their education based on their specific abilities and needs. This can be very rewarding but some pupils will require a lot of patience as you work to get to know them and find which teaching strategies will be most successful for them as individuals.
If you don’t feel ready to jump right into a Special Educational Needs educator role, you should spend some time working on your continuing personal development to gain skills which will help you – in both mainstream and SEN settings. Our CPD events will help you gain valuable Behavioural Management skills, Autism-specific skills, Creativity in Teaching skills, and more. Engage has a host of events available to attend where you can begin building your skill set in preparation for moving to a SEN school.
If you feel that you are ready to begin working in a Special Education Needs school, you can get in touch with our SEN-specialist consultants to see what SEN roles we currently have available. Some of our roles offer short-term trial periods, so you can get a feel for the school and how it fits with your teaching career before taking the leap.
Daje tells us more about how she works with her SEN pupils...