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Special needs or mainstream for NQT year?

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by SKaye13, Nov 18, 2015.

  1. SKaye13

    SKaye13 New commenter

    I have been offered a position in a special school after my first teaching placement there on my PGCE. I absolutely loved it and can see it as a new passion developing. My school where I was a TA before I started my course seem to expect me to go there for my NQT year - a mainstream school. This is why I'm in a predicament!

    I've been gathering lots of opinions on what to do. Should I go to the special school for my NQT year or stick with mainstream? Is it best to do mainstream first or difficult to switch back to mainstream if in special?

    I know it has to be where my heart is but any advice would be great!
  2. sofia_sen

    sofia_sen Occasional commenter

    I'm an NQT in special so possibly a bit biased but I would go for the SEN school.

    Teaching in a SEN school makes you really think about teaching and learning, much more than in mainstream. You will probably also have to deal with a lot of behaviour management. Leading a team of TAs is another skill that you won't develop in a mainstream nor will you learn as much from OTs, SaLTs or physios.
    It does depend on what students you have of course, a PMLD class is very different from MLD.

    Teaching SEN is not for everyody. Sure, there is less marking (none of my kids can actually write) but you spend hours and hours planning and preparing resources. You might sometimes feel that you spend more time managing your TAs than that you spend with the kids. There is still a lot of paperwork, even though you will have a small class. There are a lot of meetings with parents, therapists and specialists.
    Behaviour... It is relatively normal for me to be scratched/bitten/hit/kicked by a student, it is something that happens at least once a week, often more. You might also have to be more hands-on than in a mainstream school; last week I had to change 1 of my year 5 boys who had soiled himself during playtime. He had smeared it everywhere on himself and his surroundings, you get the picture.
    You might also have students with medical conditions. I have had to administer emergency medication for a student who had a seizure and I have seen another student stop breathing during a seizure. Both students are fine now, but you need to be able to keep your cool during situations like this because you are in charge.

    I think that once you can teach in a SEN school, you can teach anywhere because you learn so much more. If I had to teach a mainstream class for a week, I would be absolutely fine whereas I doubt it that a mainstream teacher could just take over my class.

    I think if you would want to go back to mainstream after a year, a mainstream school would be really glad to have you because of all the skills and knowledge you will have acquired.

    Good luck with your choice and well done you for being offered two jobs!
    Kartoshka likes this.
  3. SKaye13

    SKaye13 New commenter

    Thank you so much for the reply! It was very useful and informative. I think I know that the special school is the one for me :)
  4. SKaye13

    SKaye13 New commenter

    I may come back and ask you some more questions about you NQT year in a special school if you don't mind :)
  5. sofia_sen

    sofia_sen Occasional commenter

    No problems at all, anytime
  6. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Go where you know.
  7. George68

    George68 New commenter

    Like Sanneme I did my NQT year in a special school. I came to teaching as a more mature person and knew that was where I wanted to be and where my heart lies. I'm now in my 5th year as a teacher and am at the same school.
    I agree completely with everything that was said - you learn much more than just how to teach. The job will stretch you to the limits; you'll have to deal with every emergency and situation you can possibly think of, quite often more than one at a time whilst also delivering a decent quality lesson, managing a team of diverse people and maintaining your own sanity.
    I love my job and would never go back to mainstream (I was a TA in a mainstream infant school before training). I teach what the children need to know, my lessons are intended to give them life skills and independence and are completely child centred rather than whatever the current craze in teaching demands we do. Every day is a new adventure; you'll laugh (sometimes hysterically), you'll cry and you'll never have a moment to yourself once you set foot in the door but if it's right for you, and it sounds like it is, you'll never regret it.
    By the way, I have friends who taught in special schools for a while and then went to mainstream. They were in high demand for their excellent behaviour management ideas, ability to crisis manage, tendency to think out of the box and being able to make amazing resources from nothing.
  8. SKaye13

    SKaye13 New commenter

    Thank you so much for the reply.. I have my interview for the special school in January. I really hope I get it, I think I have really fallen for working in a special school setting!
  9. azzie

    azzie New commenter

    It really depends on how you see your career progressing. If you plan to remain in SEN/Special then an NQT year in a Special School is ideal. If however you want to keep your options open, go for the mainstream. It is much more difficult to move out of Special into mainstream than vice versa. Yes your skills and experience should be recognised but in reality mainstream often look down on Special as they consider it the easier option. All of us who work in this area know it is not. I have taught both and would always advise a mainstream grounding but go with where you feel the most comfortable and good luck.
  10. ScotSEN

    ScotSEN Senior commenter

    I agree wholeheartedly with the above post.
  11. SKaye13

    SKaye13 New commenter

    So many mixed opinions on this. I've been quizzing my senco and other teaching staff at my current placement school. Do you know of people who have gone from special into mainstream or is it usually then other way round? It's very hard to decide!
  12. SKaye13

    SKaye13 New commenter

    Are you finding that your NQT year would still be relevant to a mainstream classroom setting? Just thinking of transferable skills if down the line I did decide to change back. Also, how small are your classes?
  13. TeachersTimeTurner

    TeachersTimeTurner New commenter

    I did my NQT in an SEN school and loved it. However, I intended to work in an SEN school so it was different.

    However, I have two colleagues one did their NQT in an SEN school then moved to work in a reception class in a mainstream school with no problems and the other spent 5 years working in a mainstream school and then moved into a mainstream nursery afterwards. It isn't impossible to move between SEN and mainstream but I do think it is a bit more difficult and certainly it would be good to think about what you want long term before making a decision.

    There are positives and negatives to both as Sanneme pointed out above. On one hand I could do without some of the physical behaviours I am on the end of (biting, kicking etc) but on the other hand there are no mainstream schools where you can spend time working 1:1 with a child or with a tiny group for large parts of the day.
  14. sofia_sen

    sofia_sen Occasional commenter

    I missed your question, sorry!

    Yes, I do feel it is still relevant. Don't forget that part of your training year will be a (at least) 6 weeks placement at a mainstream school. Another trainee teacher from my school and I were both asked by our respective mainstream placements to apply there because they were very happy with us. We both stayed at our own school though :). You could even decide to go back to mainstream after your training year because you are trained (and assessed) for both.

    I do agree that mainstream looks down on us though.

    I currently have 9 students and team of 4TAs and 1 mealtime supervisor.

    Another advantage of SEN is obviously the money since you receive a SEN allowance.

    This week was a difficult week for some of my students after a long break. 1 boy in particular had 3 violent outbursts over the week where 2 adults had to hold him and a 3rd adult was there to support. It wasn't fun, to say the least and I'm pretty sure the marks will stay for a few more days.
    But now it's Friday, he had a good day today and I am sitting at home realising how much I love my job :).
  15. ScotSEN

    ScotSEN Senior commenter

    Yes do be prepared for the violent outbursts and the permanent reminders even with the youngest pupils! I retired at summer & still have a scar on my shin from a kick in my final year. However I had a dental problem which my dentist & I reckon was the result of being hit in the face by a P1 in mainstream!

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