What it means to work in SEND and why it is worth it.

Written by Bryony Lopez Specialist SEND Recruitment Consultant

Have you ever considered what it means to work on supply in SEND?

The education sector benefits from children and young people being introduced to new experiences and skills taught by teachers and support staff which provide viewpoints and ways of thinking and SEND (Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities) supply work is no different.

There are some distinct differences working in SEND; class sizes are smaller, staff ratio is higher, and the learning activities are a mixture of curriculum subjects, functional skills, and life skills.  The purpose is the same, to invest in our children’s future by preparing them for adulthood through training their minds and encouraging their personal and social development.

Children and young people often face daily challenges, and yes, ‘Every Child Matters’  but for the most part these are short-lived, when a skilled teacher finds a successful strategy or solution is found. Whereas children and young people deemed vulnerable or with SEND can experience these challenges everyday of their lives. There may be no solution and so we need to teach them ways to work with and manage their conditions and, the characteristics of that. Therefore, working in a SEND educational settings as a learning support assistant or SEND teacher is so important.

Why is it worth working in SEND on day to day or long-term supply?

Holistic development and care of the students is paramount and makes working in SEND worth it. Students in these settings may have medical needs, learning disabilities or experienced trauma. Even on a temporary supply basis you are part of a caring, supportive, and dedicated team that is there to address that need and, help the individual to, where possible, overcome their challenge or manage it.

The goals and development areas will all be based on the individuals and will varying in accordance with their EHCP (Education, Health, Care, Plan). It could be that you are working with a KS3 pupil with and EHCP for SEMH (Social Emotion and/or Mental Health) whose big win that term was arriving to school on time. You could be working with a KS1 child with MLD (Moderate Learning Difficulties) who has written their name for the first time. Or a young person with complex needs who now knows how to make a cup of tea safely. One of the most important parts of your job is to build confidence, independence, and opportunity and to do that you help the children and young people to recognise what they are good at!

Working in SEND is rewarding and great fun

The other thing to bear in mind is that working in SEND can be such good fun! Settings are typically very well resourced to meet the range of individual needs they cater for. In additional to class activities, your working week may include horse riding, swimming, music, amateur dramatics, canoeing, sports days, and topical activities like bake sales.

Ultimately working with SEND on supply with vulnerable students gives you a career that provides job satisfaction in bounds. It is a rewarding career with ‘wins’ of all sizes for both you and the students. Their achievements are linked with your own and when they succeed you will feel such reward that everything else fades into oblivion and you live in that moment relishing in the progress that student has made.

Many of our day-to-day support staff and teachers build bonds with the SEND pupils they work with and are asked back to the same school to fit in with their work life balance. Some temporary support staff and teachers use the experience on supply within SEND to see if the role would suit them and many go on to secure fulltime employment in a school setting, they love.

supply teacher and support staff registration how difficult can it be

Can working in SEND on a supply basis really make a difference?

Our culture has made so much progress with regards to inclusivity, and I believe that the education sector is a major contributor to that, but there are still gains to be made. Change is made via education and learning new things about ourselves and the world around us and working with SEND means that you are actively contributing to our cultural and social progression. But more important than the wider picture, is the positive impact you will have on an individual or a small group of people who may have still experienced everyday challenges, if it wasn’t for you supporting and championing them. This is what it means to work in SEND and why it is worth it and makes a difference.

Brett Sadler FRSA in his great RSA blog sums up the importance of education and collective upbringing

Having evolved so rapidly (in evolutionary terms) from our tribal roots, we’ve not adapted to the loss of the collective upbringing children would have received in that environment. Instead, they are in a lottery where, by accident of birth, they may receive great parenting, or they could lose out through having parents without the required competencies. And, because we’ve developed a notion that the family unit is sacrosanct and we shouldn’t interfere, many children do lose out horribly.

If we are to create equality of opportunity, this seriously needs to be addressed, and education is ideally placed to do this. Click below to read the full blog

What’s the point of education? – RSA (thersa.org)

 Bryony Lopez November 2021

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