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Keeping careers advice accessible: Top tips for SEND teachers

Kirstie Mackey, Head of Barclays LifeSkills, on how relating careers advice to real-life school situations can help pupils with SEND to explore their employment potential…

Helping young people realise their aspirations and reach their full potential is a universal aim for teachers. Particularly when it comes to careers education and building the life skills that will prepare young people for the world of work, we know that educators are constantly on the look-out for better ways to equip their students for this next phase. And this is no different for educators of young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

In the era of a changing world of work where the nature of future job roles is increasingly uncertain, every young person deserves to have access to quality careers education. However, from five years of working alongside educators through our LifeSkills sessions, we know that with already busy teaching staff and a packed core curriculum, it’s increasingly difficult to devote time specifically to this. That is why we were delighted to partner with Talentino, who specialise in developing career development programmes particularly for students with SEND, to develop a suite of high-quality SEND-oriented LifeSkills careers resources.

As educators already well know, careers guidance isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s why it is important to put together flexible, adaptable lesson plans and resources that teachers can easily work into the existing curriculum and apply to both mixed-ability and exclusively-SEND student groups. careers advice tips for SEND teachers - young people at work

From our experience of producing SEND content for educators that focuses on building key 21st-century skills, we have put together some top tips for teaching specific transferable skills to students with special needs that will help prepare them for the world of work.

1. Help students to recognise their transferable skills

Building employability skills can often seem daunting to SEND students, as they may not see themselves as possessing skills that are relevant to the workplace. It’s important to show students that employability skills can be developed through a variety of experiences, and to help them recognise the value of what they have already learnt at school.

Ask your students to list out various activities they’ve done at school recently, from presenting an idea in class, volunteering to help a teacher, or playing a team sport. Then give them examples of common workplace tasks – such as serving a customer or working in a team – and help them connect the skills they’ve used in their school life to the workplace examples. Doing so can make the world of work seem much more relevant and far less daunting.

2. Creative careers advice sessions which foster an entrepreneurial mindset

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset isn’t just important for students who might want to set up their own business. It’s also an effective way of building valuable resilience and problem-solving skills.

Putting creativity at the heart of teaching enterprise skills can bring these skills to life through exercises like coming up with a need or problem and then working about a way to solve it. Supporting students to work through various problem scenarios in fun and imaginative ways keep them engaged, shows them how to be creative in their approach to solving issues and fosters an entrepreneurial mindset that will help them succeed in any workplace.

3. Boost self-confidence by learning from past experiences

Building self-confidence in young people with SEND is particularly important. Here it’s helpful to encourage students not to shy away from situations that make them feel nervous, but instead to see them as opportunities to learn and grow.

Try asking students to share a challenge they’ve faced and overcome at school and have other pupils pick out what they did well and the skills they used to succeed in that situation. Not only will this help to boost their self-confidence to be complemented by their peers, but it will also help reinforce to the student that they are capable of overcoming obstacles, and that they have grown as a result.

Whether you’re an educator working with mixed ability groups or delivering lessons to groups of young people with additional needs, employing these methods can make teaching life skills easier and more effective. Through tying key life skills to young people’s everyday life experiences and making content simple and easy to understand, quality careers education can be made available and accessible to young people of all abilities and needs.

The LifeSkills programme offers careers advice lesson plans and teacher resources for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The lesson plans can be used alongside mainstream LifeSkills content with mixed ability groups or separately with exclusively SEN-focused groups. These resources have been created with experts at Talentino, are supported by the National Development Team for Inclusion, and have been tested with staff and students at several different schools.

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