A day in the life of a SEN teaching assistant

Discover what it takes to be a SEND teaching assistant

Would you like to support children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in the classroom? To learn more about this rewarding role, we asked Dawn MacWhirter, apprentice teaching assistant at Manor Infant and Nursery School to share a day in her life as a SEN teaching assistant.

Hi Dawn, thanks for speaking to us today. Please could you tell us a little about your role?

I am currently an apprentice classroom teaching assistant in reception. At the beginning of this academic year I was a classroom assistant shared between three classes in reception. I was also involved in doing interventions. During the last academic year, I was a 1:1 teaching assistant supporting a child in year 2.

Can you describe what a typical day looks like as a 1:1 teaching assistant?

No two days are ever the same, but usually I would meet with the class teacher and go through what we will be doing that day. The child I worked with often struggled with being in the classroom, so I would need to get the work for the morning ready before he arrived. He had his own work area with his visual timetable, so once I knew what we were going to be doing I could change the timetable. Then I would go and wait for him to come in and we would do some sensory circuits, then onto maths or English.

I join him during breaktime to keep him regulated to make the right choices, then it's back inside for snack time. Sometimes he will stay in the classroom for the next lesson, especially if the subject is computers or art. We then wash our hands and I find out what we are doing in the afternoon whilst he goes to lunch, which I usually get an hour for.

I collect him from the playground at 1pm and we get straight on with the afternoon's lessons. We tend to read just before home time. Five minutes before the bell goes, we head back to the classroom to fill out his behaviour chart and get his coat and bookbag. Once he has gone home I talk through his day with the teacher.

How does being a teaching assistant with a 1:1 focus differ from supporting a whole classroom?

As a 1:1 teaching assistant, your focus is on one child and all the activities are tailored to them. All of your time is spent with that one child and you will know their strengths and weaknesses and know how to get the best out of them. You will be able to tell when they are struggling and how best to support them.

Supporting the classroom as a whole is more generalised. You still get to know all the children, but you are working with the whole class or small groups.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy helping the children to reach their goals and being part of the process every step of the way, knowing that I make a difference to their education. Also knowing and that the support that we give to teachers is valued by them.

For me, it's that lightbulb moment when a child you support has just understood something for the first time. It feels amazing to know that I have helped them on their journey towards achieving their goals.

What advice would you give to someone who would like to become a teaching assistant?

Sign up for the next Teach Portsmouth information event. It will give you lots of information about becoming a teaching assistant.

You could follow my route and become an apprentice teaching assistant. I am training with The Learning Place, doing my apprenticeship at Manor Infant and Nursery School.

Get ready to step into the classroom

If Dawn's story has inspired you to learn more about becoming a teaching assistant, why not come along to an information event to get started? Visit our dedicated page on supporting in the classroom or subscribe to our newsletter to hear about future events.

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