As a Special Educational Needs Teachers (SENT), you will work with children and/or adults who have a wide range of mental, behavioural or sensory disabilities who are unable to prosper in a mainstream class environment. Your pupils will include those with dyslexia, autism, hyperactivity, Down's Syndrome or blindness. You could earn more than mainstream teachers, as you're awarded an extra yearly allowance on top of the basic teacher salary.
Who can I work for?
Primarily local education authorities (LEAs), but also independent and private schools.
Where and when can I work?
Mainly classroom based, but also the occasional venture out, such as field trips and visits to places of special interest. The class will either be in specialist schools, youth offender centres or hospital schools or you could work with students in mainstream schools. 8pm-4am with extra time allocated for marking and extra-curricular activities.
What can I earn?
An experienced, leading SENT can earn up to £42K a year. The average, however is £25K-£35K with starting salaries at £20K-£25K.
What are the benefits?
Massive satisfaction in helping your students progress. Being totally immersed in your work.
Are there chances of promotion?
You may go on to become a special educational needs co-ordinator, head teacher or teaching other teachers as a special educational needs consultant.
What will I be responsible for?
- Employing methods to convey national curriculum subjects which differ to those in mainstream schools – these include sign language, braille, role-play and touch.
- Assessing each pupil and setting goals accordingly.
- Preparing lessons and teaching materials.
- Employing specialist techniques such as sign language and braille.
- Taking students on field trips or to places of special interest (ie, museums or the theatre).
- Partnering with a wide range of interested parties – ie, parents, carers, other teachers, social workers, physiotherapists and psychologists.
- Attending meetings.
- Recording and monitoring students' progress.
- Marking work.
- Assisting students with mobility problems.
What qualifications do I need?
You cannot train and work as a special needs teacher from the outset. You need to gain teaching qualifications first, then go for the special needs element. After qualifying as a teacher (see school teacher profile), you'll have to take specialist courses to enable you to teach students with different needs. You'll need to learn braille to teach blind children and sign language to teach deaf children. You can get these courses either as post-graduate or masters' degrees from universities or from LEAs offering in-service training to existing teachers. But be advised that Special Needs is offered as a subsidiary subject on the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) courses at Leeds, Newcastle, Bristol and Oxford universities and all initial teacher training courses contain a special educational needs element).
Do I need any experience?
See above. You should really start off as a SENT assistant after gaining valuable experience working with disadvantaged individuals in the charity and/or volunteering sector.
What attributes are needed?
Physical and emotional strength. Patience (bags of it!) The ability to prioritise as you could get several students making demands on your time at the same moment. Empathy. A love of helping those less fortunate than yourself. An easy ability to laugh. A good listener. A great motivator and a superb creative flair. Superb communication skills.