As an educator seeking to make a difference in the world of Special Educational Needs (SEN), acing your job interview is paramount. This guide aims to equip you with the tools and knowledge needed to impress potential employers in your journey to become an exceptional SEN teacher or Teaching Assistant.
Before diving into the specifics, it's essential to understand the nature of Special Educational Needs (SEN) roles. Working in this sector requires dedication and a unique skill set, including being patient, adaptable, creative, and most importantly, having a passion for helping children with special needs reach their full potential.
Success in any job interview heavily relies on how well-prepared you are. In the context of SEN roles, understanding the school’s ethos, their Ofsted report, and their approach to special education is crucial to making a great first impression.
But, presumably, your CV is sorted and you're ready for interview, so here are 3 tips for ensure you're well-prepared:
Before your interview, spend time researching the school. Find out about their mission, values, and goals, particularly those related to SEN. This research will not only give you a deeper understanding of the school's ethos but also show your potential employers that you're genuinely interested in the school and its values.
With SEN schools, it's absolutely crucial to research the ages, needs and specialisms of students in the school.
Read the job description carefully and understand what the role entails. The job description often contains clues about what the interviewer may ask. By knowing what's expected of you, you can prepare more effectively by aligning your skills and experiences with the role's requirements.
Does the job description mention personal care? Whether it does or not, it's worth clarifying whether it's part of the job during the interview just to be sure, and for you to know (to the best of your ability) how comfortable you are with this.
First impressions are critical. Dress appropriately to reflect your professionalism. Avoid overly casual or flashy attire. If in doubt, opt for smart-casual attire that is comfortable and suitable for a school environment.
During your SEN interview, you'll be asked a variety of questions to assess your skills, experiences, and suitability for the role. Below are some common interview questions for SEN positions and tips on how to answer them effectively.
1. Tell Me About Yourself
This is typically the first question in an interview. Well, it's technically an affirmative declarative and not strictly a question, but that's neither here nor there. For this, provide a concise overview of your qualifications and experiences relevant to the role, and share a bit about your personality. This question is your opportunity to give the interviewer a snapshot of who you are both professionally and personally.
2. Why Are You Interested in This Position?
This question gives you the chance to show your passion and dedication to SEN. Highlight your qualifications, experiences, and explain what drew you to this specific role. Discuss the aspects of the school or role that you find attractive and how you can contribute positively to them.
3. What are the different types of Special Educational Needs you've encountered so far?
This question assesses your understanding of particular aspects of SEN. Discuss your knowledge of EHCPs (education, health and care plan), and best practices for working with students with special needs.
If you don't currently have explicit SEN experience in schools, it may be worth improving your knowledge with some online research before your interview. Check out our guide to supporting students with SEN.
4. How Would You Support a Child With Specific Needs?
The interviewer wants to understand your approach to supporting students with specific needs, such as ADHD or ASD. Describe the strategies you would use in the classroom, like providing clear instructions, breaking tasks into manageable steps, and using visual aids.
5. How Do You Build Relationships With Students?
Building strong relationships with students is crucial in SEN. Discuss how you would get to know your students, the activities you would engage in together, and how you would handle a difficult student.
Interviewers often use scenario-based questions to assess how you handle specific situations. These questions can range from dealing with an angry parent, handling a student refusing to work, to creating a positive learning environment.
When asked how you would handle a difficult situation, such as an angry parent or a student refusing to work, describe a step-by-step approach to the scenario. Demonstrate your problem-solving skills and ability to stay calm under pressure.
You may be asked about your response to specific situations. This could involve less common scenarios involving being hit, spat at, or having your hair pulled by a student. We recommend giving this some thought before your interview.
The interviewer may ask how you would promote a positive learning environment in the classroom. Discuss strategies such as setting clear expectations, providing positive reinforcement, and creating an inclusive and supportive classroom culture.
Safeguarding is a critical aspect of all roles, and this pertains especially to SEN, as it often involves a closer level of care.
Make sure you understand KCSIE (Keeping Children Safe in Education) well. It could well be brought up by the interviewer, but either way it's important to know and worth mentioning in the interview on the subject of safeguarding.
You can find our full summary of KCSIE's 2023 updates here.
Always have questions prepared for the end of the interview. This shows your interest in the job and gives you a chance to clarify any uncertainties. You could ask about the school's plans for the future, the career progression opportunities available, or what they find most challenging or rewarding about the role.
Acing an SEN interview requires preparation, understanding, and genuine passion for the role. By researching the school, understanding the job description, and preparing for common interview questions, you can increase your chances of landing that dream SEN job. Remember, the goal is not only to demonstrate your qualifications but also to show your dedication to making a positive impact in the lives of students with special needs.
Your journey as an SEN educator can be incredibly rewarding. By showcasing your skills, experiences, and passion for special education during your interview, you stand a better chance to embark on this fulfilling career path. Good luck!