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training route to become a SEN teacher?

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by beaskies, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. I'm an undergrad student (studying Geography) and I think I would like to pursue a career teaching special needs children in mainstream seconday schools.
    How should I go about training for this? I feel it would be prudent to do a PGCE, but there doesn't seem to be one specialising in this area. So, should I do a PGCE in Geography but take placements in Special schools? Or become a TA at first? Or if I want to work in a Learning support unit, does this mean I can't 'teach', only 'support'?
    I'd really appreciate any experiences/advice
  2. autismuk

    autismuk New commenter

    I would figure out what area(s) interest you. For example there is a world of difference between Primary PMLD and Senior EBD !
    Then I suggest you train as a teacher, probably Secondary, unless you are a bloke (the competition in Primary/female is massive) and get some basic teaching experience under your belt, then look to move sideways into SEN. There will be opportunities to spend time in SEN as you go.
    Good SEN teachers are about the people doing it, not necessarily paper qualifications. The worst SEN teacher I worked with was undoubtedly the best qualified - useless teacher and mentally unstable though.

  3. ok, that's helpful, though please could you decipher the acronyms for me?
    I wasn't meaning that I want lots of good-looking qualifications asap, I'm just not sure which is the best way to start off on the right track...
    thank you!

  4. Hi Beaskies
    PMLD = Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties
    EBD = Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties
    a couple of others you may come across:
    MLD = Moderate Learning Difficulites
    SLD = Severe Learning Difficulties
    The special Ed section of TES is very good and may offer a useful insight into issues the area of SEN. Would recommend a carreer in the field!! [​IMG]
    Hope this helps.
    Best wishes
    Jayson Gilbert
    Blackfriars Special School.
  5. autismuk

    autismuk New commenter

    I'm not either !
    I don't *think* it's possible to train as an SEN teacher (as opposed to a Primary/Secondary teacher) per se.I'm not even sure what such a course would be, because the approaches vary so spectacularly, and some people are brilliant in one area, but may be completely hopeless in another (for example, the tendency to dump EBD children in MLD schools has made some teachers' lives very difficult).
    If you can do a PGCE course and have a helpful course tutor then you might be able to do a PGCE in whatever fits your interest best and it may be possible to do your placement at Special Schools.
    It's not a requirement (or wasn't) to have an SEN qualification to teach in a Special School - you can simply apply for it. It will help your course if your training and experience is a close as possible.
  6. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    If you want to teach in mainstream or special school you really do need to do a PGCE or equivalent (graduate teacher prog. etc) and get qualified teacher status. If you want to see if it's for you, you could become a learning support assistant before doing your teacher training.
    As to working in a learning support unit, it depends on the school set up. Some have several teaching assistants / higher level teaching assistants providing support, some have teachers teaching and supporting collegues, many have both.
    The university of Birmingham is well regarded for post grad special needs courses for people who work with people who have PMLD and SLD and also people who have autistic spectrum disorders
    I know they also offer a PGCE, they may be worth checking out as they could have a PGCE with modules that would let you specialise? Dr Penny Lacy is the special needs lecturer, She's really good. You could contact her by e mail
    p.j.lacey@bham.ac.uk and ask advice
    Boogum likes this.
  7. Thanks to you both.
    dzil - do you know of any other universities which have a good reputation for this? Not to rule out Birmingham, but to keep my options open.
    Also, what is the best way to get a placement as a learning support assistant? Would I need to apply to advertised jobs, or do you think I could make specific requests to schools to volunteer? I do have some experience of working with people with special needs, but as a wilderness-camping-holiday staff member, rather than in a school setting. Might this be sufficient to be offered a temporary assistant placement?
  8. autismuk

    autismuk New commenter

    There is enormous competition for LSA/TA jobs because they are pretty well suited to working with children.
    However, I would expect that if you volunteered - especially if you explain why you volunteered and you have someone who could vouch for you - then they would be quite keen I would think. I would read up first so that you can hit the ground running :)
    Some experience of working with SEN is more than a lot of people have - at least you won't run away screaming (not a joke, it does happen !) :)
    Important to get the right school though. "Special Needs" is a huge continuum ranging from almost nursing level through to seriously dangerous young criminals.

  9. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    Sorry I don't know of any other universities, hopefully someone elso on here will be able to help. I don't know Birmingham personally, I just know Penny Lacey is a really good lecturer and workshop leader (personal experience on INSETT courses and responses on forums) she really knows her subject and the pupilstheoretically and at a practical level and she's highly respected in the profession.
    As the previous poster states, paid TA jobs tend to be difficult to get as there are a lot of really capable and experienced people out their. Supply LSA work may be an option? Voluntary work in a special school is more easily available but usually involves quite a stringent selection process including a full enhanced CRB check. The school won't pay this if they have any doubt about your commitment. You do have the advantage of prior experience which will help.
  10. Does anyone know of any training courses (just a day thing, or online or something) that might be helpful to a teacher hoping to improve their SEN teaching - specifically I am looking for help with SPLD
  11. Hello,

    I am also looking for info in how to get into SEN teaching! I have a degree in Psychology and I currently work in a residential secondary SLD school - started as a support worker and now I'm an Assistant Psychologist.

    I am considering SEN teaching as a career path and I think I would like to work particularly with SLD and Autism...maybe MLD and I would be happy with primary or secondary.

    If I was to look into doing a PGCE would I be better off doing Primary or Secondary? Also is it difficult to get a job in a SEN school as a newly qualified teacher if you haven't spent some time teaching in mainstream first? This may sound negative but I really have very little desire to teach in a mainstream setting and if I was decide on teaching as my career my main focus would be to work in a SEN school.

    Any info would be helpful!
  12. I would like to become an Art special needs teacher within a secondary school that specialised in SLD and autism. I have a fine arts bachelor's degree in two dimensional and graphic design. Unfortunately, I've heard a lot in the press about the arts being marginalised, and special needs in general is hard to train towards. I have had an interview for the graduate teacher programme at a PMLD school, but that wasn't for me.

    I spoke to the Teaching Agency run through the government. They said they couldn't help me as special needs and art weren't subjects that are in demand. I am really interested in pursuing this career route and I have over 3 years of experience in the field. I've worked as a full supply teacher in the USA and residential schools specialising in autism in the UK. I'm beginning to feel at a bit of a loose end as I can't find support anywhere.
  13. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    Hello RMH8,

    As you realise, you will need to do a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) and achieve QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) in order to teach in a special school. A primary PGCE will qualify you to teach primary and secondary pupils with SLD and ASD and I would say it would be the most use as there is more emphasis on early childhood development and teaching across all subjects. That said, there are many excellent secondary trained teachers in special schools.

    Most pupils with SLD (severe Learning Difficulties) and ASD (Autistic Spectrum Difficulties)are taught in all age special schools anyway, although there are now several that are only primary or secondary. Some secondary special schools teach a subject based curriculum as in a mainstream secondary, but most teach all ages in classes with one teacher teaching most subjects like in a mainstream primary school.

    I know many teachers who have come straight in to special schools without any mainstream experience. In spite of what many people believe it is possible to complete your NQT year in a specila school. The only drawback seems to be that if you want to teach in a mainstream school it is much harder to get a post if you go down that route. I suspect that this wouldn't be a problem for you as you don't want to teach in mainstream.
    Boogum likes this.
  14. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    Hi Chinelady,

    I think you may find it hard to get a job as an arts teacher in a special school if you only (or mainly) want to teach art. Most special schools are "all age".

    Those that are only secondary tend to teach to a primary model where one teacher teaches all subjects to his or her class. Having said that, there are a few scattered around the country that do teach to a secondary model and some of these do have an art specialist. As you can tell, the field is very small so job opportunities are rare.

    A specialist arts teacher would almost certainly be expected to teach some other subjects as well as take on pastoral responsibility for a given class. Most special schools for pupils with SLD (Severe Learning Difficulties) also have pupils with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties) and you would be expected to teach pupils of all levels of ability, including those working at the early P levels.

    If you really want to do this and work in the state sector, the only way is to get qualified teacher status in England. Unless your US qualification is recognised over here, you will need to do a PGCE or graduate teacher programme. It would have to be in primary or secondary teaching and it would qualify you to teach all subjects.

    The only other option is to try to get work in a private school, free school or academy (where they don?t have to employ qualified teachers) if you can find one that needs a specialist art teacher for pupils with SLD.
  15. Thank you for the information dzil. Have a lovely day!
  16. Thank you for the information dzil. Have a lovely day!
  17. Thank you for the information dzil. Have a lovely day!
  18. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    YOu are welcome. Hope I did help and that you manage to get the career you want.
  19. delmamerchant

    delmamerchant Established commenter

    I am a SEND teacher. I originally trained as a teacher. It was a sideways, incidental move. Taught on entry level and level one courses that were for SEND and EAL learners. Took loads of different short courses and workshops and voila!

    There are many one day courses/workshops run by reputable educational establishments. Also, if you are in a union, they may also run some free courses.

    Do ask further questions if you wish.
  20. Fenellaarchdale

    Fenellaarchdale New commenter

    Hi, I am also a teacher looking to get into SEN, what courses did you do? Looking for day courses ideally.

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