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Special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistant Special needs classroom assistant, special needs learning support assistant

Special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistants support teachers to help children with a wide range of learning, physical or behavioural difficulties.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £11,500 to £23,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 30 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent in English and maths.

You may also need a college qualification in nursery nursing, teaching assistance, childcare or play work.

Some experience of working with children with disabilities or learning difficulties may help you to find work.

You'll need to pass background checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

You may be able to get into this career through an apprenticeship.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • excellent communication skills
  • literacy and numeracy skills
  • the ability to deal with challenging behaviour
  • creative and practical skills for activities and displays

An ability to speak local community languages could be useful in some areas.

3. What you'll do

You may work with a range of ages in a mainstream school or a dedicated special needs school.

Your work will depend on the age of the children and their individual needs, but may include:

  • preparing learning materials under the supervision of the teacher
  • working inside or outside the classroom with individuals or groups
  • adapting support according to needs
  • looking after children's physical, social and emotional welfare
  • creating a stimulating environment
  • giving information and help to teachers
  • keeping records and attending review meetings

4. Salary

Starter: £11,500 to £14,000

Experienced: £15,000 to £17,000

Highly Experienced: £18,000 to £23,000 (higher level teaching assistant)

Salaries vary depending on your experience and the education authority you work for.

Some schools may only pay a percentage of these rates for term-time only work.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll work normal school hours, Monday to Friday during term time. Along with your classroom hours, you'll spend additional time planning lessons, marking work and taking part in school activities.

You'll mainly be based indoors, but may travel for school outings and social activities.

6. Career path and progression

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

They may also provide training on learning difficulties 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 SEN or mainstream teacher.

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Last updated: 14 September 2017