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Exploring Career Opportunities in Special Education Needs (SEN)

  • Date: Feb 13, 2024
  • Author: Alastair Tulloch

There are nearly 65,000 children across Wales who are identified as having Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), that’s around 13% of the total pupil population. However less than 1% of those children attend a special school, with the majority being supported in mainstream education. Special Educational Needs can be a rewarding career choice whether you choose to provide SEN support in a mainstream school or work in special school. But it can also be challenging. Which is why its important to understand the roles available for SEN career and the skills and attributes you need to succeed.

What does a SEN teacher do?

SEN is a broad term which covers needs as wide ranging as physical disabilities, learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorders, and emotional and behavioural issues. Because of this SEN teaching is different from other classroom teaching roles.

SEN teachers focus on key skills like numeracy and literacy. Depending on their needs SEN pupils may spend all their time with their SEN teacher or attend a mix of mainstream lessons and SEN sessions. SEN teachers will spend time preparing lessons, creating learning plans and working closely with other teaching staff, parents, and stakeholders to develop appropriate activities for each child.  

SEN teachers often work closely with SEN teaching assistants or specialist staff to provide care and depending on the needs of their pupils they may be asked to provide support relating to personal care for which they’ll need specific training.

What other SEN roles are available?

If an SEN teaching or teaching assistant role isn’t right for you, there are other SEN roles and careers available. For example:

  1. Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo)
    SENCo’s are usually experienced teachers with specific qualifications. Their role is to support the needs of children and their families throughout their time at school. It often involves assessing needs, monitoring progress, and communicating with parents and outside agencies, researching the latest methods and techniques and co-ordinating with other teachers across the school.
  2. Support Worker
    In this role you might be providing individual care outside a school environment helping children and young adults live at home or engage with the wider community. Responsibilities will vary depending on the needs of the person you are caring for. You might help them with household tasks, organise leisure activities or give daytime or overnight support. If this sounds like a role you would be interested in, you might want to explore our Social Care roles.
  3. Learning Mentor
    As a learning mentor you’ll work closely with individuals to provide support during lessons and activities. This could involve sitting with them during lessons they find challenging, supporting with time management and promoting positive behaviours. You’ll build a close relationship with each pupil you work with.
  4. PRU teaching/teaching assistant 
    Teachers and TAs in Pupil Referral Unit’s aren’t necessarily going to be helping pupils with special educational needs, although many pupils there will have SEN provision. However, all pupils will be experiencing complex challenges and require additional support and guidance.
  5. FE roles
    Further Education providers also require SEN assistants, support workers and more. There are SEN roles available in adult learning centres, universities, and colleges. 


Is an SEN career right for you?

SEN or SEND is a broad term, that covers pupils with a wide range of additional needs and who need different levels of support. SEN is certainly not a career for everyone. It can be immensely challenging but immensely rewarding too. Here’s some information you’ll need to know so you can decide if SEN is the career for you.

The first thing to note is that SEN careers often involve working with smaller groups and even individuals however you’ll also be required to build relationships with parents, social workers, senior teaching staff and even charities.

You’ll also need some specific skills. You’ll need to be an excellent communicator, incredibly patient and be able to adapt to different needs. You’ll also need a deep understanding of SEN policies and methodology and be prepared to deepen your knowledge with specialised training in inclusive education, behaviour management, and assistive technology.

SEN careers can be very emotionally and physically demanding and there is a risk of stress and burnout. However, it can be very gratifying to watch your pupils achieve their milestones and support them in defying expectations.

5 great reasons to explore a SEN career

Embarking on a career in Special Educational Needs (SEN) can be a rewarding journey, where you can make a meaningful impact. Here are our top five compelling reasons for you to explore a SEN career:

  1. It’s rewarding!
    You’ll play a pivotal role in helping children with diverse learning needs overcome challenges and achieve their full potential. Preparing them for success outside of education and shaping the future of the next generation.
  2. Be part of a wider community
    Working collaboratively with other educators, parents, and support professionals provides a unique opportunity to connect with the wider community and build a robust professional network.
  3. Constantly learn and challenge yourself
    With diverse learning needs to address, you’ll always be faced with situations that challenge you and encourage you to develop new skills and grow as an education and SEN professional.
  4. The freedom to get creative
    A career in SEN will provide you with plenty of opportunities to get creative and solve problems. From adapting your lesson plans on the fly, to coming up with activities to bring pupils out of their shell and foster their unique personalities you’ll have the freedom to think outside the box.
  5. You’ll be inspired every day
    Helping students overcome obstacles and witnessing their progress provides an endless source of motivation and sense of purpose. Each day will bring new opportunities to inspire and be inspired.


If you'd like more information on how Vetro could help you find meaningful agency work in teaching and education, get in touch or explore our hundreds of live vacancies across the UK.

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