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Special educational needs teaching assistants, also known as SEN teaching assistants or SEN TAs, play a crucial role in empowering children with special educational needs to realise their full potential. With a focus on supporting both academic and social-emotional development, SEN TAs collaborate closely with teachers to create inclusive learning environments tailored to every child’s individual needs.


As an SEN teaching assistant, you will work with children aged from 5 to 18 years, alongside education providers and other professionals who aid their development. You’ll provide one-on-one support and facilitate group activities.


Read this article for a comprehensive overview of the core roles and responsibilities as an SEN TA as well as what qualifications and education is required for the role. We also dive into the average salary as well as potential career paths an SEN TA role can lead you to.

Roles and Responsibilities of an SEN Teaching Assistant


As an SEN TA, you will have a range of duties. Although what you’ll do will vary depending on the school, here are some general tasks you’d be expected to carry out.


Supporting Academic Learning:

  • Assisting students with understanding and completing tasks according to their individual learning needs.
  • Adapting and modifying learning materials to make them accessible and engaging for students with SEN.
  • Providing one-on-one or small group instruction to reinforce learning concepts.


Facilitating Social and Emotional Development:

  • Building positive relationships with students and encouraging social interaction among peers.
  • Supporting students in developing self-regulation strategies and managing emotions effectively.
  • Implementing social skills interventions and activities to enhance communication and interpersonal skills.


Personal Care and Hygiene Assistance:

  • Assisting students with personal care tasks such as feeding, toileting, and dressing as needed.


Behaviour Management and Support:

  • Implementing behaviour management strategies and interventions to address challenging behaviours.
  • Collaborating with teachers and behaviour specialists to develop individualised behaviour support plans.
  • Providing positive reinforcement and encouragement to promote appropriate behaviour.


Communication and Advocacy:

  • Acting as a liaison between students, teachers, parents, and other professionals, facilitating effective communication and collaboration.
  • Advocating for students’ needs and rights, ensuring that they receive appropriate accommodations.
  • Providing regular updates and feedback to teachers and support staff on students’ progress and challenges.


Assistive Technology and Adaptive Equipment:

  • Assisting students in using assistive technology and adaptive equipment to access the curriculum and participate in learning activities.
  • Ensuring that assistive devices are properly maintained and accessible to students.


Classroom Support and Organisation:

  • Assisting teachers in managing classroom activities and routines, including setting up learning materials and resources.
  • Providing supervision and support during transitions between activities.

A Day in the Life of an SEN Teaching Assistant


A day in the life of a SEN teaching assistant begins with thorough preparation and planning, reviewing the day’s schedule and familiarising oneself with specific accommodations or student needs. When students arrive, SEN TAs will welcome them, providing support as they settle in. This could include helping students organise their belongings, unpacking bags, hanging coats and preparing for the day’s activities.


Throughout the morning, SEN TAs will offer one-on-one support during lessons, ensuring that students understand concepts and complete assignments. They also facilitate social skills activities to promote peer relationships.


In the afternoon, SEN TAs assist students with personal care tasks such as toileting, handwashing, and feeding during lunchtime. They will continue to support students academically and emotionally, implementing behaviour management strategies and offering positive reinforcement. Collaboration and communication with teachers and parents are essential aspects of their role, as they attend meetings, provide updates, and document student progress.


As the day comes to a close, teaching assistants will reflect on the day’s activities, organise materials for the next day, and complete any necessary documentation such as progress notes or incident reports.

What it Takes to be a Successful SEN Teaching Assistant


There are a range of different skills that make a successful SEN teaching assistant. Here are a few examples:


  • Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, to effectively interact with students, teachers, parents, and other professionals. 
  • Understanding of various special educational needs and disabilities, including their characteristics, impacts on learning, and effective support strategies. 
  • Empathy and patience to understand and support the diverse needs and abilities of students with SEN. 
  • Adaptability and flexibility to respond to the changing needs and challenges of students throughout the day. 
  • Familiarity with assistive technology and adaptive equipment used to support students with diverse learning needs. 
  • Strong interpersonal skills to build positive relationships with students and create a supportive learning environment. 
  • Problem-solving abilities to address challenges and find creative solutions to support students’ learning and development. 
  • Understanding of different learning styles and teaching methods to accommodate students’ individual preferences and abilities. 
  • Knowledge on different ways to communicate, such as British Sign Language or Makaton. 

How to Become an SEN Teaching Assistant


There are several ways to become an SEN teaching assistant including enrolling in a college course, an apprenticeship or gaining experience through volunteering.




College courses provide a pathway to becoming an SEN teaching assistant. Here are some options:


During these courses, you may have the opportunity to gain practical experience by working with children with special educational needs. Many individuals start by acquiring qualifications or experience in mainstream schools before transitioning to roles supporting children with SEN. 


Entry requirements typically include: 

  • For level 2 courses: 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent 
  • For level 3 courses: 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent 
  • For T level courses: 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths. 



Apprenticeships offer a route to becoming an SEN teaching assistant. Here are some options:


Entry requirements vary, but typically include: 


  • For intermediate apprenticeships: Some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent. 
  • For advanced apprenticeships: 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths. 



You can also become an SEN teaching assistant through volunteering experience, which provides valuable practical skills and insights. Volunteering roles may include assisting in SEN classrooms, supporting students during activities, aiding with administrative tasks, or participating in extracurricular programs.


This hands-on experience allows you to gain familiarity working with students with special educational needs while making a positive impact in educational settings. Volunteering can sometimes lead to paid work or a chance to get a qualification.


Click here for more guidance on volunteering opportunities.

Average Salary for SEN Teaching Assistants


In the United Kingdom, the average salary for SEN teaching assistants is £23,400 per year or £12 per hour.


Entry-level positions typically start at £21,450 per year, while experienced workers can earn up to £36,319 per year.


These figures may vary depending on factors such as location, level of experience, and specific employer policies. As demand for SEN support continues to grow, opportunities for career progression and higher earning potential are also increasing within the field.

SEN Teaching Assistant Career Paths and Progression


Specialised Training and Skill Development

SEN teaching assistants can pursue specialised training in areas such as British Sign Language (BSL), dyslexia support, autism awareness, or other specific learning disabilities. By acquiring additional qualifications and skills, SEN TAs can enhance their ability to support students with diverse needs and expand their career opportunities within the field of special education.


Higher-Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) Status

Experienced SEN teaching assistants may choose to pursue higher-level teaching assistant (HLTA) status, which involves undertaking further training and assessment to take on more advanced responsibilities. HLTA status allows individuals to lead small group activities, deliver pre-planned lessons, and provide cover for teachers, gaining increased autonomy and recognition within their role.


Progression to Fully Qualified SEN Teacher

For those seeking to advance their careers further, progression to become a fully qualified SEN Teacher is a viable option. SEN teaching assistants can undertake further education and training, such as a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) with a specialisation in special educational needs, to qualify as teachers. With a teaching qualification and SEN expertise, individuals can lead their own classrooms, develop and implement tailored learning plans, and make a significant impact on the lives of students with special educational needs.

The role of an SEN teaching assistant is multifaceted and rewarding. If you are someone who’s compassionate, adaptable, and dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students with special educational needs, the role could be ideal for you! 


If you are someone who thrives in a dynamic and inclusive environment, where every day brings new opportunities to support and inspire students with SEN, why not apply for our SEN roles? 


At Sugarman Education, we are committed to matching talented individuals with meaningful opportunities in the field of special education. Join our team and become part of a supportive community dedicated to empowering students with special educational needs to reach their full potential. 


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