What Makes a Good SEND Teaching Assistant?

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn:

  • What a SEND Teaching Assistant is.
  • What makes a good SEND Teaching Assistant.
  • Where the latest SEND Teaching Assistant jobs are and how to apply for them.


If you’re thinking about becoming a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Teaching Assistant, you will need to learn the specific qualities, skills, and responsibilities that contribute to their success in supporting students with additional needs.

Knowing what qualities make a good SEND Teaching Assistant helps candidates create a more accurate and realistic development plan to focus on building skills while improving professional qualifications.

This complex and challenging role is hugely rewarding but requires a particular skill set. No two days will be the same so SEND Teaching Assistants need to be able to adapt and be flexible in order to be as effective as possible. 

Throughout this blog, we explore the key attributes and duties of an effective SEND Teaching Assistant and how to excel in this role to make a positive impact on students' learning and development.


What is a SEND Teaching Assistant?

SEND Teaching Assistants are specialists in their field and are required to work in the classroom to support children and young people with SEND. They can work independently or support teachers to ensure children with different educational or physical requirements, limitations or disabilities, are supported within the classroom.


What makes a good SEND Teaching Assistant?

It is important to understand the qualities that make up a good SEND Teaching Assistant in order to perform well in the role.

Skills and qualities that make up a good SEND Teaching Assistant:

  • Patience.
  • Time management and organisational skills.
  • Empathy and compassion.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Active listening skills.
  • Motivational skills.
  • Flexible and open to change.
  • Be creative in your approach to teaching.


Patience

As a SEND Teaching Assistant, you have a more challenging teaching job than most and it can be difficult to deal with the responsibilities of the job. Children with learning or behavioural difficulties may require more time to understand even basic concepts.

It is important that SEND Teaching Assistants are aware of the pressures and difficulties of the job and how to deal with situations in a way that is in line with the relevant school policies.

SEND Teaching Assistants need to have the ability to deal with challenging behaviours and adapt to a chaotic environment. Remaining calm and patient in stressful situations and not being overwhelmed is an important quality that makes up a good SEND Teaching Assistant. 


Time management and organisational skills

Research by Gov.UK suggests that nearly 1.1 million UK students require SEN support which means the demand for SEND Teaching Assistants is high. Just like any other teacher, strong organisational skills are essential to perform well in the job.

SEND Teaching Assistants always have a list of important administrative duties they need to accomplish outside of the classroom, as well as look after children's physical, social and emotional welfare. SEND Teaching Assistants need to be able to manage their time and efforts accordingly and need to be able to set boundaries on their time and workload.

Good SEND Teaching Assistants must have excellent timekeeping skills to be able to manage and prioritise tasks and responsibilities to students and the teacher in the classroom.

With a lot of SEND pupils, a well-structured routine can make a big difference to their ability to learn. SEND Teaching Assistants are expected to work with multiple pupils, each with different challenges and requirements, so it is crucial to be organised.

A good SEND Teaching Assistant will keep organised and on top of their work to ensure that they remain calm, stable, and able to implement a good structure that will help ensure pupils get the most out of their day.


Empathy and compassion

Having emotional intelligence is crucial for SEND Teaching Assistants to be able to show empathy and acknowledge pupils feelings. Children with SEND are unable to manage emotions and may have complex behavioural and learning challenges they need to overcome.

Empathy is a good quality for SEND Teaching Assistants as they generally have more free time to form bonds with pupils during one-on-one learning. The role involves creating a comfortable and accommodating learning environment that nurtures and supports pupils' learning requirements.

SEND Teaching Assistants must be able to show empathy and compassion to help build children’s confidence and self-esteem. Being sensitive to a pupil's challenges and showing empathy is a powerful way to connect and learn. Being empathetic and compassionate around every pupil you work with is crucial for diversity.


Excellent communication skills

Pupils with SEND struggle to communicate their needs and have social interactions with other children which makes it crucial for SEND Teaching Assistants to have excellent verbal communication skills.

SEND Teaching Assistants need to be able to communicate and build a rapport with pupils to ensure the right level of care and support is provided. It helps pupils to feel confident in their learning and feel valued through the feedback you give to them and encourage more conversations and engagement in the learning process.

SEND Teaching Assistants not only need to communicate with pupils and teachers, but also parents and other parties involved in the pupils education and well-being. Whether it's conducting meetings, relaying updates or providing feedback, it’s crucial that SEND Teaching Assistants maintain a healthy communication with all.

In this role, communication is crucial to ensure everyone is involved, supported and working together to give the child the right level of care and support.


Active listening skills

Being a good communicator also requires having excellent listening skills. SEND Teaching Assistants need to be able to fully concentrate on what students and teachers are saying. Actively listening and giving pupils your undivided attention helps to build stronger relationships.

SEND Teaching Assistants that take the time to listen and reflect on what is being said can better support the students' learning and well-being. These skills are crucial to be able to build strong, lasting relationships with people and how best to approach certain situations.


Motivational skills

SEND Teaching Assistant’s need the skills to motivate and encourage students with SEND to overcome their struggles and continue learning. Pupils with SEND need more than just emotional support and the ability to communicate. They need to be motivated and inspired to learn from their SEND Teachers and SEND Teaching Assistants.

Without a strong motivation to learn, some pupils with SEND struggle to enhance their education and achieve their full potential. SEND Teaching Assistants need to be able to keep their pupils' self-esteem high and continue developing pupils' motivational skills.

It also helps them provide constant supervision and remain positive even during challenging situations that require long-term focus.


Flexible and open to change

As a SEND Teaching Assistant, you can’t predict how the day is going to go so it is important to be flexible and open to change. You may have to adapt your expectations for the day and what you’ll achieve according to the pupil’s needs, which can easily vary from day to day.

Pupils with SEND have a diverse range of requirements which means that a good SEND Teaching Assistant should be able to adapt their strategies and material to accommodate children's individual challenges. A willingness to modify your approach and be flexible is essential to tailor your expertise towards a range of personalities and needs.

Being prepared to change your plans or make different decisions allows SEND Teaching Assistants to stay calm, flexible and open-minded. This includes considering new ideas, accepting criticism or welcoming suggestions from others to give the best support for SEND pupils.


Be creative in your approach to teaching

It might seem obvious but a good SEND Teaching Assistant needs to have a passion for education and be creative in their approach to pupils. Attributes like creativity can enable young people with SEND to apply their learning and skills in a more effective and fun way. 

A good SEND Teaching Assistant could be creative through the use of visuals, music and technology to increase knowledge retention and help students to grasp the content easier.


SEND Teaching Assistant jobs

If you're currently searching for your next SEND Teaching Assistant job, why not reach out to our Managing Consultant, Jamie Heath, for updates on the best daily cover, permanent and temp-perm jobs available right now! 

Alternatively, you could upload your CV and one of our consultants will promptly contact you when suitable opportunities arise.


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Local authority and SEND recruitment services

As an award winning SEND recruitment agency in the United Kingdom, we extend our recruitment support to schools and local authorities across the country. Need help recruiting great SEND Teaching Assistants? Give us a call on 01772 954200 to see how we can help. 


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