Mainstream or Special Needs? – My placement update!

Mainstream or Special Educational Needs teaching? Now that’s a difficult question.

A question that is hard to answer, having only experienced a few examples of each.

But I have my own opinions and my own paths of life that I wish to take, as you will aswell. But here’s a little update on how my placement is going so far, and my thoughts over this topic. Also, enjoy my random and irrelevant pictures that I have taken over the last few weeks, that include some of what I have taught and what the children have made!

Christmas competition
Christmas competition

As I briefly mentioned in my specific “placement” blog a while ago; in the second year of the Primary Initial Teacher Education course at University of Worcester, you are offered the amazing chance to complete your placement in a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school.

This isn’t for everyone, and you will be placed in a mainstream school as normal if you choose not to sign up to this.

I never once thought that i’d end up teaching in a school that was specifically for children with educational, learning and sometimes physical difficulties. It was always an interest of mine, but not something that I thought I would pursue.
This was partly because I wasn’t sure I would be the right kind of person for it.

When I joined Worcester University, I wasn’t aware of this pathway. When we were told about it though, and I watched a presentation from students who had first hand experience of this SEN pathway, I jumped at the chance. Like I said, I never pictured myself teaching in anything other than a mainstream school, but I was thrilled to get the opportunity to experience a different style of teaching and work with children that would challenge and improve everything that I knew about how to be a teacher.

I went into this placement just before Christmas, thinking that I would use my experiences and knowledge of SEN teaching purely to help develop the teaching that I would do throughout mainstream schools. Little did I know at the time, that I would fall in love with the school I was placed in and discover a new passion for SEN teaching that I never thought I would.

Shape recognition
Shape recognition

Unfortunately I can’t tell you any specifics about the school that I’m completing my placement at, for obvious reasons.. but one of the great things about the SEN pathway on this course, is that you get to pick your options. We were provided with a list of schools that had available places, and it was up to us to arrange visit days with our chosen schools and pick our first, second and third choice for where we wanted to complete our placement.

During my visits, there was one school that stood out to me in particular. There was also another that was a wonderful school, but I just knew that it wasn’t the right one for me. This is why the visit days are SO important. You may not get your first choice, but if you are unsure about SEN to start with.. then visiting the schools will really help you to learn what type and level of Special Educational Needs will suit you best.

Taking into consideration that I am only about a third of the way through my placement, this is what I think so far..

the work of the day board
The Work of the day board

My main positives of taking this pathway:
– A whole new experience (Obvious, but important.)
– A new understanding of how to handle behaviour and assessment.
– A stack load of new teaching and resource ideas.
– A different feel and sense of community throughout the school.
– Everything learnt can be adapted to mainstream, so if SEN isn’t for you as a full time career, then you will still benefit.

Easter chick puppets
Easter chick puppets

My only negatives so far:
– It is our first assessed placement, where our observations REALLY count. The new experience and style of teaching is daunting and takes some getting used to. Does this effect your assessment? I’ll keep you posted on that, but i’m up for the challenge.
– The possibility that you might be losing out on experience that other students are gaining in mainstream. But it’s all relevant and what we learn is equally important.

I’ve gladly come to the conclusion that I will not choose between the two career paths, because I want to do both!

Of course, I have no idea where I will be in 10 or 5 or even 2 years time. But what I do know is that I will do my very best to experience life as a teacher within both areas.


So, Mainstream or Special Needs? Sorry guys… but there is a different answer out there for all of us that you need to find out for yourself! Good luck, and to all my fellow trainee’s going back into placement soon… have fun! 🙂