Shaping a future – Sam

“Even a small step is a big step in our eyes”

Those are the words of Sam, a Learning Support Assistant with over 15 years’ experience in the education sector, specialising in SEN schools. 

Sam’s passion for helping others is clear to see when we spoke to her about her previous experiences, working in hospitals, as a home care worker and even working with young children on a cruise ship. 

She said: “In college I did a BTEC in caring. One placement I had was in a special needs school, which is where I found my love for the sector. My last role was on a cruise ship, which stopped due to covid. I knew that schools would need SEN support during this time, so decided to go down the agency route to find a school.

Sam shares her time between various caring roles, which is why the flexibility of a supply role is perfect for her and fits around her lifestyle.

“I’m a private care worker for a little boy and I also work at a special needs playground during the holidays, so the school holidays work well for me. Family holidays are easier too when you can choose your working weeks.”

Due to her wealth of knowledge in care, Sam has been able to transfer many skills into her teaching style today, adapting her approach based on each individual that she works with.

She explains: “It’s about being patient and understanding. People might not understand that children in an SEN school can’t communicate like you would expect them to, so you have to look out for those signs. It could just be a look in their eye and that’s their ‘Yes’.

“It doesn’t come naturally, you need to learn that. Communication is what I have brought with me from other roles, being generally caring and having a calming effect.”

Sam has been registered with Sugarman Education since last November and has had consistent work ever since. Being in a long term placement, she has been able to build relationships with both staff and pupils and she shares her feelings on seeing those children develop and reach important milestones.

“In September we had 3 children come from mainstream schools. It’s very different here and we have a lot of structure. One child had one-on-one help in mainstream school and was always removed from class because he was upset or frustrated. 

We can deal with that behaviour and have already seen a huge change in him. The key is not to use too much language. We have a visual schedule and he can already recognise what task is next. It’s great to see him pick it up.”

When discussing how working in an SEN school can help shape a child’s future, Sam discusses how she has seen children develop just by completing everyday tasks and how being patient and observing their behaviour is key to communicating with them. 

She explains: “Someone putting a bag on their own peg can be a big thing for them. People will do it for them for ease, but they need to learn life skills. Simple things like dressing themselves, being independent. You’re not always focused on the teaching.

“No two children are the same, so don’t have any expectations of them. Five minutes of work is an achievement for them. If it takes them 10 minutes, then wait. Use your initiative. They can’t communicate while they are upset, so you need to pick up on that.”

From a young age, Sam was keen to help others. Her dream job was to be a vet, but after becoming an auntie at the age of 10, she knew that she wanted to work with children. 

“From then on, I liked helping kids. When I studied health and social care in secondary school, my teacher was really encouraging and pushed me towards that career.”

When asking Sam why she would recommend working in a supply role, there were many reasons why she would suggest this career path to others, as well as the service that she has received from Sugarman Education. 

“If you’re not sure if this is for you, supply is a great way to try it without being in a fixed contract. You may have only worked in mainstream schools and want to experience a week in an SEN school.

“Sugarman Education is really on the ball. They were considerate and took into account what I wanted, not what they needed. They matched me to the right role and they still check in with me now, even on a long-term placement.”


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