This comprehensive job guide is designed for individuals aspiring to pursue careers as special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistants. It offers insights into the responsibilities, necessary knowledge, skills, required qualifications, education and opportunities for career progression associated with the role.


What do SEN teaching assistants do?


Special educational needs teaching assistants, commonly referred to as SEN teaching assistants or SEN TAs, support pupils with physical, behavioural or learning difficulties. They work under the guidance of teaching and SEN staff, assisting students across the national Key Stage curriculum levels 2 through 4, covering ages 5 to 16. Their responsibilities include aiding in lesson planning, adapting materials, and providing individualised support to SEN students.


SEN teaching assistants collaborate with both mainstream and SEN teachers to create inclusive learning environments that cater to the diverse needs of students. This involves modifying lesson plans to accommodate various abilities and using their communication skills, creativity and knowledge of learning support techniques to facilitate student engagement.

One of the key aspects of the role involves inspiring students to enjoy learning and taking pride in their accomplishments. By employing a mix of resources and innovative teaching methods, they aim to create supportive learning environments where students can thrive.


Beyond supporting students academically, becoming a SEN TA presents opportunities to make a meaningful difference in students’ lives. It also allows individuals to develop their teaching support skills and gain experience in a variety of teaching methods, aids, and approaches. Through their dedication, SEN TAs play a vital role in empowering students with special needs or disabilities.

Duties and responsibilities


SEN teaching assistants support pupils with special educational needs. This can include supporting a small group of pupils or one-to-one, in either a special or mainstream school. The responsibilities of an SEN TA involves helping students’ understand instructions and school work using techniques that work for them. They help students build their confidence and independence while providing feedback and support to teachers.


Here are some key responsibilities and duties you’ll likely have as an SEN teaching assistant:


  • Creating an engaging and stimulating environment tailored to the unique needs of the children you support.
  • Assisting with behaviour management and communicating in a calm and clear manner.
  • Looking after the well-being of the children, addressing their physical, social, and emotional needs.
  • Collaborating within and beyond classroom settings to cater to individual or group learning needs.
  • Adapting instructional strategies to accommodate the diverse learning requirements of students.
  • Assisting students in therapy or care programs and collaborating with relevant professionals according to the learner’s needs.
  • Providing one-on-one or small group support to students with SEN, assisting them with classwork, assignments, and activities.
  • Monitoring students’ progress and behaviour, documenting observations and communicating with teachers and SENCOs about any concerns.
  • Implementing individualised education plans (IEPs) and behaviour management strategies for students with SEN, ensuring their needs are met.
  • Assisting students with personal care needs, including toileting, feeding, and mobility, as required.
  • Communicating with parents, professionals, and internal/external agencies to support pupils.
  • Assisting with administrative tasks, such as organising classroom materials, preparing learning resources, and maintaining student records.
  • Supporting students in using assistive technology or adaptive equipment to facilitate their learning and participation in classroom activities.
  • Encouraging independence and self-confidence in students with SEN, providing positive reinforcement.
  • Adhering to safeguarding policies and procedures to ensure the well-being and safety of students with SEN.

Required skills and knowledge


To succeed as a SEN teaching assistant, you will need to draw on your understanding of Additional Learning Needs, and have the following skills, knowledge and attributes:


  • A good understanding of the National Key Stage Curriculum.
  • Familiarity with diverse teaching methodologies suitable for students with special educational needs.
  • Knowledge of child development principles and learning theories.
  • Active listening skills and strong verbal communication.
  • Commitment to establishing positive connections with students and understanding their unique learning needs.
  • Knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses.
  • The ability to provide personalised attention, encouragement and assistance with educational tasks.
  • Patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations.
  • Readiness and adaptability to respond effectively to changing circumstances.
  • The ability to assess students’ reactions and adjust approaches to achieve desired learning objectives.
  • The ability to handle sensitive matters with empathy.
  • Interest in advancing personal and professional growth.
  • Proficiency in utilising computer tools, including Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.

Educational background and qualifications


Although there are no set education requirements to become a SEN teaching assistant, some schools will require candidates to have GCSEs in English and Maths at grade 4 or above (equivalent to a C or above). These grades are also common entry requirements for teaching assistant college courses or apprenticeships. Instead of GCSEs, you could choose to complete Level 2 Functional Skills qualifications in maths and English. These are equivalent to GCSEs and can help you get into a wide range of jobs in education.




To start your journey towards becoming a SEN teaching assistant, you will need to equip yourself with the right qualifications. While it is not essential, Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools are helpful in starting a successful career in special needs education.


You may also want to consider a Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education Early Years Educator or a T Level in Education and Childcare. These qualifications are suitable for general TA roles. They don’t cover specialist training in SEN, but you may be able to get a placement working with SEN children while completing your course. It is common to get experience and qualifications working in mainstream schools and then moving into SEN.



Instead of college qualifications, you might choose to complete an apprenticeship in one of the following:



This can be a great option for many starting their careers because apprenticeships allow you to work and earn a wage while studying. While apprenticeships don’t always offer specialist SEN experience, they give you broad experience in education and teaching assistance.


Click here to learn more about how to become an SEN teaching assistant.

Work experience


Having prior experience within an educational setting is very valuable when pursuing a role as an SEN teaching assistant. This experience can range from working as a teaching assistant in schools to caring for children with disabilities or learning difficulties. Employers will also consider other experience like working in childcare, youth work, mentoring or personal experiences like caring for a family member with SEN.


It can be advantageous if you have previously worked as a teaching assistant in a special school or in a mainstream school with provision for students with SEN. Experience working with specific types of special needs such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, speech and language difficulties or physical disabilities will give candidates realistic expectations of what it will be like working with children who have these special needs.


By working in general TA roles, you will often gain experience working with SEN children. Express your interest in SEN to your manager or supervisor. You could be given the opportunity to shadow an SEN TA to learn more about the role. You could also volunteer to help SEN students during extra-curricular activities or events. This can be a stepping stone into an SEN teaching assistant role.

Salary expectations


Although your salary may depend on location, experience and the school you’re applying for, a typical SEN teaching assistant salary is around £20,000 per year. If you are working with an agency, you will get paid on a per week or per day basis. On average, an SEN teaching assistant will get paid around £90 per day.


As a new starter with little experience you might not be earning as much, approximately £18,000 per year, but after you’ve gained more experience you’ll earn significantly more.


Experienced SEN teaching assistants with extra responsibility may earn around £29,000 or more in their role. If you’re looking to earn a higher salary as an SEN TA, you should look into acquiring additional knowledge and skills. Having the required qualifications and skills will help you be considered for higher level positions. This could include having a qualification in safeguarding, first aid or fluency in British Sign Language.

Career paths and progression opportunities



  • Speech and Language Therapist: SEN TAs interested in communication and language development may opt to train as speech and language therapists. Additional training involves completing a recognised speech and language therapy degree program and obtaining relevant certifications.


  • Special Education Teacher: SEN TAs may choose to become special education teachers, leading their own classes catering to students with special educational needs. This requires obtaining a teaching qualification through a relevant degree or postgraduate program, along with specialised training in SEN teaching methods. You can learn about routes into teaching from Get into Teaching.


  • Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO): SEN TAs can progress to become SENCOs, overseeing the provision of special educational needs support within a school or educational institution. Additional training may include obtaining a SENCO qualification or completing courses in special education leadership and management.


  • Educational Psychologist: With further education and training, SEN TAs may choose to become educational psychologists, specialising in assessing and supporting children with learning difficulties or disabilities. This typically involves obtaining a postgraduate qualification in educational psychology.

A role as an SEN teaching assistant can be challenging. However, it is extremely rewarding for people interested in helping disadvantaged children thrive in their education.


SEN teaching assistants play an important role in shaping a student’s life and can be a great choice for individuals who are passionate about working with SEN children.


If you’re looking for a SEN teaching assistant job, Monarch has a wide range of roles to suit your skills. Get in touch with our team today or view our latest SEN Teaching Assistant jobs.


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