Special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistants support teachers and help children with diverse learning needs. A role as an SEN teaching assistant involves working with the teacher to plan and deliver activities and supporting pupils with routines, transitions and behaviour management.


SEN teaching assistants are responsible for more than just classroom support, they are advocates, mentors and facilitators, ensuring that every student regardless of their circumstances has the opportunity to succeed.


With the right qualifications, skills and experience, SEN teaching assistants can enjoy a rewarding career with opportunities for progression and professional development.


Are you interested in becoming a teaching assistant and working with special educational needs children? Read this comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about the role. 

What does an SEN teaching assistant do?


An SEN teaching assistant can either work at a special needs school or within a specialist unit in a mainstream school. The role involves working with a range of special educational needs including learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sensory, speech and language impairments and behavioural difficulties. It can be a physically and emotionally demanding role.


As an SEN teaching assistant, you may be involved in preparing learning materials and adapting teaching support according to the student’s needs. You will also look after children’s physical, social and emotional welfare and creating an interesting environment for students. They will also work with speech and language therapists and keep records of the childrens’ development.


An important part of the role is also assisting in the implementation of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) for students and working with teachers, parents and agencies to ensure that the support outlined in the EHCP is implemented and monitored.

Responsibilities of a SEN teaching assistant


SEN teaching assistants undertake a range of responsibilities to support students with special educational needs, including…


  • Individualised support: Providing one-to-one or small group support to students, assisting with academic tasks, and facilitating their inclusion in classroom activities. They build positive relationships with pupils, promoting high self-esteem and independence.


  • Adapting instructional materials: Modifying and adapting teaching materials and strategies to meet the individual needs of students with special needs, ensuring accessibility and inclusivity.


  • Behaviour management: Supporting teachers in managing student behaviour, implementing strategies to promote positive behaviour and prevent disruptions in the classroom.


  • Communication and collaboration: Adapting communication style to respond to pupils according to their individual needs. SEN TAs also collaborate with teachers, parents, and other professionals to share information, monitor progress, and ensure coordinated support for students with special needs.


  • Safeguarding: Working in line with statutory safeguarding guidance (e.g. Keeping Children Safe in Education) and child protection policies. Promoting the safety of all children in the school.


  • Professional development: SEN teaching assistants must keep their knowledge up-to-date by reflecting on their own practice, liaising with school leaders, and identifying relevant professional development opportunities. Taking initiative to build appropriate skills, qualifications and experiences required for the role with support from the school.

Is an SEN teaching assistant job a good fit for you?


An SEN teaching assistant job could be a perfect match for you if you have a genuine desire to work with children, particularly those facing challenges in their learning journey. They may have personal or professional experiences that ignited their passion for supporting individuals with special needs such as volunteering in SEN programmes or caring for family members with disabilities.


The role also requires individuals to possess unique skills that enable them to effectively support SEN students. Schools will also be looking for candidates with the following attributes: 


  • Empathy and patience: Demonstrating empathy and understanding when working with students with special needs. The ability to remain calm in stressful situations is important.
  • Adaptability and flexibility: Being adaptable and flexible to meet the evolving needs of students and responding to unexpected situations. 
  • Communication and collaboration: Strong verbal and written communication skills are necessary. Collaboration skills are also important to work effectively with colleagues, parents, and external agencies.
  • Knowledge of special education: Understanding of special education practices, including different types of disabilities, learning difficulties and safeguarding procedures.
  • Organisational skills: Ability to manage workload, prioritise tasks, and ensure that students receive appropriate support.
  • IT skills: Good IT and computer skills, particularly using ICT to support learning.

How to become an SEN Teaching Assistant


There are different routes you can take to become a SEN teaching assistant:



You can obtain a college qualification to help you get started. For example, you may choose to enrol in one of the following:



With one of these qualifications, you may be able to get a placement working with children with SEN while completing your course. It is also possible to get qualifications or experience working with children in mainstream schools, then move into working with children with SEN. 


To become an SEN teaching assistant, you could also complete one of the following: 



There are no set entry requirements for these apprenticeships, but it can be beneficial to have a few GCSEs, usually including maths and English, for an intermediate apprenticeship or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship. 


Click here to read more about becoming an apprentice. 



Another way to become a teaching assistant in an SEN setting is to get experience through volunteering. Volunteering can lead to opportunities for paid work or to get further qualifications. 


To work with children and vulnerable adults, you will also need to pass enhanced background checks. 

Required experience


While specific requirements may depend on the location and role, SEN teaching assistants will usually have experience working in a school environment or other educational settings. This could include experience in roles like childcare, youth work, mentoring or volunteering.


Experience working in special education is beneficial and could involve working as a teaching assistant in a special school or a mainstream school with inclusive provision for students with SEN. Experience working with specific types of needs such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, speech and language difficulties or physical disabilities is very valuable.


Personal experiences with SEN, such as caring for a family member, can also provide valuable insights that inform the practice of SEN teaching assistants.

SEN teaching assistant salary expectations


SEN teaching assistant salaries vary based on factors such as location, experience, and the school. On average, entry-level SEN teaching assistants can expect to earn around £17,00 per year.


With experience and additional responsibilities, salaries can progress, reaching upwards of £29,000 per year. Specific roles or positions in high-demand areas may command higher salaries.


If you are working with an agency, you will get paid on a per day basis. On average, a SEN teaching assistant will get paid around £90 per day.

Career paths and progression opportunities


SEN teaching assistants may progress into roles such as:


  • Special Education Teacher: With additional education and training, SEN teaching assistants may pursue a career as a special education teacher, supporting students with disabilities and specialised learning needs.


  • Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO): SENCOs oversee the strategic development of SEN policy and provision. They are part of the leadership team and ensure the implementation of the SEN policy on a day-to-day basis.


  • Behaviour Support Worker: Specialising in behaviour management and providing targeted interventions for students with behavioural challenges.


SEN teaching assistants are drawn to the profession by a passion for making a difference in the lives of students with special educational needs. They possess a unique blend of qualities including empathy, patience, resilience and commitment to equality and inclusion.


Although an SEN teaching assistant role can be challenging, it is extremely rewarding and provides a wealth of experience within a special education environment. SEN teaching assistants play an important role in shaping a student’s life and can be a great choice for individuals who are passionate about working with SEN children.


CER has a wide range of SEN teaching assistant roles to suit your skills and preferences. Get in touch with our team today or view our latest SEN teaching assistant jobs.


View SEN teaching assistant jobs