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Advice from teachers working with pupils with special educational needs

Watch teachers in a special needs school talking about working with children with special needs
Gina Burrows: A lot of the apprehensions that people have around special educational needs has to do with the medical model of disability and that they expect children to have profound and multiple learning difficulties. But the situation here is, especially in the setting I work in, we work with severe learning difficulties and moderate learning difficulties. We have specialists for every area in the school, so if you ever need any help with a certain area of special needs there’s always someone that you can go to.
I think sometimes that little bit of lack of knowledge that people may have around special educational needs, which is fine to have because not everybody will know about special needs unless you’ve been in a setting like ours, that holds people back and makes people a little bit apprehensive, or even a bit scared. It’s just about breaking down those barriers and coming to see what special educational needs really is.
Matthew Young: Teaching food technology, you’ll find many times that in special educational needs that whilst they may have difficulties in some subjects, because it’s a practical subject they naturally enjoy it more. I always believe they can achieve anything in a practical subject, so when I come into the classroom there’s never been a question in my mind can they or can they not do it. There’s things that I’ve made for the very first time and they’ve just completely blown my mind away.
There was a lesson last year with a Year 7 form making brioche. I’ve never made brioche in my life and they all just flew into the lesson and they all flew out, it was that moment when I actually went home and I actually felt I’m actually finally becoming a teacher and they can actually do something, and I was really proud of what they had done. That was my moment.
Gina Burrows: The main thing is that are really amazing about our children, every morning when they come to school they have a huge smile on their face despite really difficult and challenging circumstances that they may have had at home. They are such lovely and loyal children to teach. They’re so resilient. They’re always willing to have a go at everything, will get stuck in, and the great thing about them and the staff at this school is that we all have a great sense of humour. We make sure that this school is a happy place for our children to be before anything else. Bringing people in from industry has last year and this year been a really great asset to our school.
We’ve had a number of trainees that have transferred from industry into the teaching profession. Some of those trainees came from a catering background and from a technology background, so they were able to bring in pieces of equipment that the children could have a go of, such as coffee machines, and they have a wealth of experience about business. They’ve had a lot of business links and we’ve been able to use those business links to educate different strands of businesses about what special needs is and how our special needs learners could fit into their businesses through those relationships that we’ve built with people coming to us from industry.

Teachers from a special needs secondary school in England talk about teaching pupils with moderate and severe learning difficulties.


  • Draw upon the specialist advice available in special educational settings.
  • All students have capabilities, a positive attitude and drawing upon their strengths is key.
  • Students are resilient, willing to engage and study in a happy environment.
  • Industry expertise supports employability aspirations for young people.

As a volunteer, you are not expected to know how to support students with special educational needs. The teacher or group leader you work with will provide advice when you discuss your activity idea and resources. If you do wish to find out more about supporting students with specific impairments, Teacher Vision provides useful guidance.


Thank you to the staff and students of Rumworth School, Bolton, UK for allowing us to film and for sharing their experience of special educational settings.


If you were concerned about mixed ability groups, or working with young people with special educational needs, what were your concerns? How might you address these concerns?
If you have experience working with mixed ability groups, we encourage you to provide some advice here for fellow volunteers.
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