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We have no special needs children. Just children with special needs


If you have every had the privilege of working in a support role in school, you will know how different this perspective can be. If you haven't, it may be worth considering what you can learn from adjusting your position occasionally in the interests of discovery.

Special needs schools are remarkable, because of the diversity. I'm not talking ethnic groups, I'm talking about children who are different and are learning together because of this.

I was a teaching assistant and it was my first real job. The lovely thing about this role was that I wasn't the teacher. This meant that I would develop different relationships with the children. I could sit alongside as the teacher spoke, and my only focus was to join in and to help them to engage.

'I used to love sitting and helping the children to learn. This is such a different position from teaching because you are closer to the child. You have the pleasure of seeing them learn.'

I met a little girl that I often think about now. She had a very rare condition and a sense of humour that was both infectious and obscure. For this reason, we laughed a lot together. She carried a beaten-up dolly called Olivia. Poor old Olivia was often on the receiving end of some wild and dangerous interactions, finding herself suddenly flying across the school hall, being told off in public or just being scrawled on with a biro.

'Whilst doing the job, I now realise that I was learning an awful lot about how children think and grow. The word 'unique' is commonly used in education because it celebrates difference.

At the end of every school day, this little girl waited for me. Standing patiently outside her house, with Olivia tucked under her arm, waving at me as I drove home in my car.

There are times when we have to be the figure of authority in the classroom, but it will often be the times that you can sit alongside the children that you serve, that you will appreciate and learn the most.


The role of the support staff is an important one. When I say this, I don't just mean that they are helpful. Your support staff can see things very differently and it can be good to learn more about what the school is presenting. Most teachers have never really had the chance to watch other teachers teach. Where as most support staff have watch many teachers teach. For this reason, they have a broad view of what does and what does not work.

The relationship as always comes first. When we secure this, we can influence the learning. We know that children will learn better from people that they like.

Learning on the shop floor about children in an SEND setting is extremely valuable. The skills required to think outside the box can push you into some very interesting situations. This is not a conventional curriculum or setting as we may know it. Sometimes, with the way that some children learn, they may not fit within a gov.uk descriptor or objective.

About the Author

David Rushby

Former Teaching Assistant.

Observations, learning walks, book studies and parent and pupil surveys for your ipad or tablet

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