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Transition from mainstream teaching to SEN

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by MatthewLucasPE, Jan 31, 2017.

  1. MatthewLucasPE

    MatthewLucasPE New commenter

    Hi all,

    Apologies if this has already been discussed, (I have searched the forums but could not find anything).

    I qualified as a secondary PE teacher last year, prior to that I was a SEN teaching assistant in a secondary school. Since completing my PGCE I have gained a post 16 teaching role. In this role I am teaching BTEC sport, which is an incredibly prescriptive teaching route and is dampening my creativity and motivation towards teaching. In my former role as a teaching assistant and throughout my PGCE I loved working with SEN students and felt I had an aptitude and the creativity to engage SEN students with a range of SEN needs. I also found it much more rewarding and felt i was able to be fully creative and immersive with my teaching.

    I am looking to transition into becoming a classroom teacher in an SEN school. I have researched a lot online and looked at person specs and job descriptions and it states that the qualification requirements are a PGCE and degree etc. I am posting to see if people have made the transition from being a subject specialist secondary teacher to becoming a teacher in a Special/SEN school and if people could tell me what I could be doing to gain experience and put myself in a good position to gain such a role. I.e, are their any online training courses you would recommend, experiences, reading etc that would develop my knowledge in this area. In addition any information surrounding the environment in a Special/SEN school and how they differ, both positively and negatively from mainstream school environments.

    As I currently work in a unique educational setting, I am able to take holiday during term time and am hoping to take some time to go shadow lessons over a week long period in a special school to develop myself in this area.

    Any help would be much appreciated, as would pointing me in the direction of other similar posts that I may have missed.
  2. Jo3Grace

    Jo3Grace New commenter

    Hi Matthew
    It sounds as if you already have the insight to know where you would prefer to be with regards to the students. There are various differences between the settings but these would be hard to list, things from a teaching point of view that are worth thinking about are that in mainstream it may be possible to role your planning and use the same lesson plans for the same age students year on year, this is never possible in a SEN setting as every class is unique.

    There are no particular qualifications beyond those you already hold that you require to work in a special school, but there are things you could do that might make you look more desirable. Many special schools host holiday clubs for their students, and would be looking for volunteers. Volunteering at the school you would like to work at would be a really great way of getting yourself known and getting a better understanding of their students.

    Attending specialist training is another way of showing you are making an effort. Here I'm terribly bias because I work as a trainer, training the staff of special schools, speech and language therapy teams and adult care workers, so of course I'll recommend my own training!
    http://jo.element42.org/training Actually it could be a good idea to try and get some experience around the sorts of SEN students you are unlikely to have encountered in mainstream settings, for example those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, the Develop Your Sensory Lexiconary course I am running is focused on these individuals and includes movement related activities so would tie in with your PE skills.
    But there are other routes, for example attending the Free TES SEN conference where there are various free CPD seminars along with pay to attend ones. Just chatting to the people on the stands would be a way of getting lots of insight into special school settings.

    Best wishes
    JulesDaulby and dzil like this.
  3. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    Jo's advice is really good, as always. Special School is quite different to mainstream, but it's still teaching, and teachers transitioning find they have a steep learning curve. However, it's worth it if the job is for you!

    You ask about books - two that come to imediately to mind are Jo's book

    and a book about the curriculum by Pete Imray and Viv Hinchcliffe
    JulesDaulby likes this.
  4. ilovesummertime

    ilovesummertime New commenter

    I transitioned from mainstream primary to special so I can't comment on coming from a secondary subject specialist. However, I'd say that your experience as an SEN TA will be great. If you can get some time out to shadow some teachers in special schools then that would be good too and may help you think of ideas for interview. I don't think you'll have any trouble finding a SEN classroom teacher role though as you have great experience already.

    I recently moved to mainstream settings, whilst still specialising in SEN. I have been surprised at how independent the children are, what 6 year olds are expected to know at the moment and the amount of learning intentions that are needed every day!

    Special schools can be emotionally very exhausting, however I absolutely loved teaching in SEN. I loved how everything came so specifically down to each child as an individual. Time is well spent thinking of creative ways for every child to be able to access the curriculum. I found SEN so interesting, challenging and rewarding, and I was always amazed at what the children achieved despite their many struggles each day.

    Good luck with your move to SEN, I'm sure you'll really enjoy it.
    JulesDaulby likes this.
  5. JulesDaulby

    JulesDaulby Occasional commenter

    Great advice from all.

    My old boss left mainstream last year to become a Deputy Head in a large special school.

    She told me how she's wished she's made the move years ago. What struck her most was not having to battle the system to include students and that everything was set up for the students and personalised.

    As previous contributors have said your experience as a TA is invaluable and you are well placed to apply for posts.

    Have you thought about approaching special schools (and PRUs) to see if they need a specialist PE teacher to come in? Some schools buy in PE teachers as they don't have toyr skill set. This could be a good way in perhaps?


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