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Within the educational and social care sector, behaviour support workers (BSW), also known as behaviour support assistants, play a critical role. Their primary objective revolves around understanding and resolving issues pertaining to challenging behaviours exhibited by young individuals, steering them towards adopting more constructive habits and enhancing their learning and development. 


Having an in-depth understanding of the responsibilities associated with behaviour support professionals can help individuals in making well-informed decisions regarding pursuing this career path. 


This article delves into the duties, knowledge, skills, and qualifications essential for aspiring behaviour support workers. We also outline what a day in the life of a BSW looks like, salary expectations as well as potential career paths to prepare you for a rewarding career within SEN education.

What is a Behaviour Support Worker?


A behaviour support worker (BSW) is a professional who works closely with pupils to assist them in managing and regulating their challenging behaviours. The primary objective of a BSW is to facilitate student learning and enhance their ability to effectively communicate with others. These pupils may come from disadvantaged backgrounds, have learning difficulties or mental health conditions, which have resulted in their challenging behaviours.


BSWs are employed across various settings, including primary, secondary, and further education settings. They play a crucial role in supporting the main teaching staff, contributing to the maintenance of a positive learning environment for all students. Additionally, BSWs may accompany children outside of regular lesson times, such as during one-on-one sessions or break periods.


By providing targeted assistance and creating a supportive environment, behaviour support workers enable pupils to thrive academically and socially, despite their challenging behaviours or underlying difficulties.

Duties of a Behaviour Support Worker


In an educational setting, behaviour support workers undertake a range of duties aimed at promoting positive behaviour and supporting students with challenging behaviours. Some of their key duties include:


  • Conducting assessments: Behaviour support workers assess students’ behaviour to identify triggers, antecedents, and underlying factors contributing to challenging behaviours. 
  • Developing behaviour support plans: Based on assessments, behaviour support workers collaborate with teachers, parents, and other professionals to develop individualised behaviour support plans tailored to students’ specific needs. These plans outline proactive strategies, interventions, and goals to address challenging behaviours effectively. 
  • Implementing behaviour support strategies: Behaviour support workers implement behaviour management strategies outlined in students’ support plans. They work directly with students to teach coping skills, self-regulation techniques, and social-emotional learning strategies to help manage their behaviours. 
  • Crisis intervention: In situations where students exhibit escalated or crisis behaviours, behaviour support workers intervene promptly to de-escalate the situation and ensure the safety of all individuals involved. They employ calming techniques, conflict resolution strategies, and crisis management protocols as needed. 
  • Communicating with teachers and families: Behaviour support workers collaborate with teachers, school staff, and parents to ensure consistency and alignment in implementing behaviour support strategies. 
  • Monitoring progress: Behaviour support workers monitor students’ progress by collecting data on behaviour interventions, outcomes, and response to support strategies. They use this data to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, make adjustments as needed, and provide feedback. 

A Day in the Life of a Behaviour Support Worker


BSWs will begin the day by reviewing the schedule and prioritising tasks for the day ahead. They will attend any team meetings to discuss plans for the day. As students start to arrive, BSWs check in with students who require immediate support, greeting them and discussing any goals for the day. They will conduct behaviour assessments with students, observing their interactions and identifying any triggers or patterns of challenging behaviour.


Throughout the day BSWs will accompany students during lunchtime, providing support and encouragement as they navigate social interactions and mealtime routines. During break periods, they will engage with students in structured activities or provide opportunities for relaxation and sensory regulation as outlined in their support plans. They will conduct one-on-one or group sessions with students to work on specific behavioural goals or skills outlined in their support plans. During the day, BSWs will record observations, interventions, and student progress in behaviour logs or documentation systems, ensuring accurate and comprehensive records are maintained for future reference.


At the end of the day BSWs will take some time to reflect on the day’s activities, noting any successes, challenges, or areas for improvement. They will wrap up any remaining tasks and ensure proper handover of information to colleagues or next-shift staff regarding student progress, incidents, or upcoming appointments.

Necessary Skills and Knowledge for the Role


Behaviour support workers will have a range of hard and soft skills that enable them to support pupils with challenging behaviours. These include:


  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills to build positive relationships with students, teachers, and parents. 
  • Strong problem-solving abilities to address challenging behaviours effectively and implement appropriate interventions. 
  • Empathy and patience to understand and support students with diverse behavioural needs. 
  • Knowledge of behaviour management techniques and positive reinforcement strategies. 
  • Good analytical skills to measure and understand the progress of children in their care, including being able to understand statistical data like attendance records and grades, and identify patterns. 
  • Strong IT skills for producing written reports and spreadsheets to document the ongoing progress of pupils. 
  • Emotional intelligence to understand when a pupil is at risk of causing disruption and how to help them control their behaviour. 
  • Conflict resolution to diffuse any situation and support the student. 

How to Become a Behaviour Support Worker


There are no formal qualifications necessary to become a BSW. Some schools may look for qualifications like Health and Social Care, or similar, from college. A background in education, psychology, or related fields is also beneficial. Completing training courses or workshops in behaviour management, positive behaviour support, or special education can enhance your skills and qualifications as a behaviour support worker.


Some employers require that you hold a Team Teach Certificate as this shows that you have skills like using restraint correctly and knowledge on how to de-escalate situations. You will also need to complete a valid DBS check. When working with an agency like Sugarman Education, we can help process a new DBS for you and answer any questions you may have.


Prior experience working with children or individuals with behavioural difficulties is highly desirable. Volunteering or working as a teaching assistant in a school setting can also provide valuable experience.

Average salary for Behaviour Support Workers


The average salary for a behaviour support worker in the United Kingdom is £23,715 per year, equivalent to £12.16 per hour.


Entry-level positions typically start at £21,450 per year, while experienced workers can earn up to £30,704 per year.


These figures reflect the standard compensation range for behaviour support workers across various educational and social care settings across the UK.

Career Progression Opportunities


Career progression opportunities for behaviour support workers in schools can vary depending on factors such as experience, qualifications, and professional development. Here are some common career paths and advancement opportunities for behaviour support workers:


Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO)

Behaviour support workers with additional training or qualifications in special education may pursue roles as SENCOs. SENCOs are responsible for coordinating provision for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), ensuring their individual needs are met and that appropriate support is in place.


Further Education

Some behaviour support workers may choose to further their education and training to expand their career opportunities. This could involve pursuing higher education qualifications, such as a degree in education, psychology, or special education, to qualify for teaching roles or specialised positions within the field of behaviour support.


Teacher Training

Behaviour support workers who aspire to become teachers may undertake teacher training programs, such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or a School-Centered Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) program. This pathway allows individuals to transition into teaching roles while building on their experience in behaviour support.


Specialist Roles

Some behaviour support workers may specialise in particular areas of behaviour support, such as autism spectrum disorders, emotional and behavioural difficulties, or speech and language disorders. Specialising in a specific area can open opportunities for more advanced roles.

The role of a behaviour support worker is both challenging and rewarding, requiring a unique blend of skills, knowledge, and dedication. As key members of the education team, behaviour support workers play a crucial role in supporting students with behavioural difficulties and helping them succeed academically and socially.


If you are passionate about making a positive impact in the lives of students and thrive in a dynamic and supportive environment, a career as a behaviour support worker may be the perfect fit for you. With opportunities for professional growth, competitive salaries, and the satisfaction of making a difference, it’s a career path worth exploring. 


Are you interested in working with children with special educational needs? Apply to one of our SEN roles today.


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