Working with students who have special educational needs and disabilities can be incredibly fulfilling. You’ll build strong relationships and help people to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. 

If you’re wondering how to become a special educational needs teacher or how to work with SEN students more widely, our guide should offer all the information that you need. We will explore some of the different roles available, as well as the qualifications and requirements needed to get a headstart in your applications. We’ll also look at how volunteering can help you get the necessary experience you need to best work alongside SEN students.

Seashell worker helping boy on tablet

How to become a Special Educational Needs Teacher

As a SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) teacher, you’re responsible for meeting the diverse needs of a whole range of students. This means creating and delivering individualised education plans, managing the classroom and working alongside parents and professionals such as Speech Therapists.

Supporting children with SEND is incredibly rewarding as you’re helping students overcome barriers to learning and leading fulfilling lives. You’ll also have lots of opportunities for work at mainstream schools, SEND schools or further education colleges. 

To become a SEND teacher, you need:

  • A degree in education, special education or a related field 
  • Experience working or have been a volunteer with disabled children 
  • To get Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) through completing a teacher training program or a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) 
  • An enhanced DBS check

Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistants

SEN teaching assistants support teachers to help pupils in the classroom. This means working closely with individual people, adapting learning content to support specific needs, and creating a safe and enjoyable learning space.  

You’ll enjoy this role if you are compassionate and patient, have a drive to empower students, and want to make sure everyone feels included. It’s also a more accessible role since you won’t be required to have as many qualifications as a SEN teacher does.  

To become a SEN teaching assistant, you will need an enhanced DBS check along with one of the following: 

  • College qualification such as a level 2 and 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching & Learning in Schools 
  • Relevant Apprenticeship 
  • Previous experience of working with SEN students

Becoming a Special Educational Needs Coordinator

A Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) oversees the day-to-day development and strategy of an educational facility’s SEN policy. This means identifying which students need extra support and ensuring adjustments are made for them to feel safe and supported. It also means monitoring progress with other staff and social care providers.  

Being a SENCO is a very important and rewarding role. Every mainstream school must have at least one Special Educational Needs Coordinator and special needs schools (such as Seashell) will also hire a SENCO to ensure that learning and enrichment activities are organised. 

To work in this role, you need to:

  • Be a qualified teacher already 
  • Have at least three years of teaching experience in a classroom  
  • Have one year’s experience in a senior role such as the head of a subject or department

Becoming a Speech and Language Therapist

Both mainstream schools and institutions like our special needs schools in Manchester hire Speech and Language Therapists to help students who have difficulties communicating. In this role, you’re responsible for assessing, diagnosing, and providing individualised treatment plans for either one-on-one students or a wider group.  

By learning to communicate with people with learning difficulties, you can build meaningful connections, foster a more inclusive environment and empower individuals to overcome challenges. 

To become a Speech and Language Therapist, you need to obtain: 

  • An undergraduate degree in a related field such as linguistics or psychology 
  • A postgraduate level degree in Speech and Language Therapy that’s approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) 
  • Work experience with individuals with speech and language disorders 
  • An enhanced DBS check

Becoming an Occupational Therapist

When considering how to work with SEN students, supporting them to transition beyond school is often overlooked. But Occupational Therapy is a really fulfilling career that you can consider if you’re passionate about empowering students to develop skills that will help them transition into an enjoyable life beyond the school environment. 

You’ll be responsible for supporting students and training staff to involve them in activities which lead to them learning new skills and developing positive self-esteem.  

To work in this role, you need: 

  • An undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy or an HCPC-Approved Postgraduate program if you have a different undergraduate degree 
  • Relevant work experience in healthcare or social care settings 
  • An enhanced DBS check

Working in Inclusive Leisure Activities

Children Disabled and Abled Sports (CADS) is Seashell’s sports and activity programme. By joining the team, you can help ensure that young people with varying support needs all have access to fun extracurricular activities.

We offer a range of roles which allow you to support children in activities such as swimming and football. Most of these positions come with full training. However, you’ll need to have: 

  • Experience providing high customer care  
  • The ability to work as part of a team 
  • Great communication skills

Getting involved with Residential Support Work

Residential Support teams work with a home-from-home care house (such as those managed by Seashell) to provide around-the-clock care to SEN students.  

You’ll ensure a great quality of life by overseeing their personal care needs and supporting them with mobility, their daily routine, communication, independent living skills, and learning. 

You’ll get ongoing training and development support, but to land a role, you’ll need resilience and adaptability. This can be a really fun role, but it’s also a challenging one.

Volunteering with SEN students

Now that you know how to become a special education needs teacher, you may want to start getting some experience. To gain experience with SEN students that you can use to land one of the positions we’ve looked at, it’s a great idea to volunteer with a charity such as Seashell. Prove to potential employers that you have the passion, experience and resilience you need to work and provide you with valuable insights and practical skills. 

Check out our charity events to find ways that you can get involved now!

Keep up to date with everything Seashell

As a well-established learning disability and autism charity, Seashell offers a holistic approach to learning and supporting people with complex learning difficulties. To keep up to date with our charity fundraisers and how we provide learning difficulties support, sign up for our newsletter.  

If you have any further questions or need any help sorting out your charity fundraiser or donation, feel free to get in touch with our fantastic team. We are always happy to help!