Becoming an Educational Support Worker: Key Tips & Insights

two children with a teacher in a classroom playing with blocks

Do you love children? Have you thought about supporting children with disability to learn and grow? Is it time for a career where you can really make a difference?

Many Individual Support Workers and Disability Support Workers provide support to students in schools, focusing on the individual needs of each student. Every day offers a unique experience to support children and be a guiding influence on their educational journey.

Acquiring a qualification is the first step in gaining a successful and fulfilling career as a support worker. This equips workers with the skills needed to make a significant difference in the lives of students with diverse learning needs, and to contribute to creating inclusive and supportive educational environments.

In this article

Understanding Diverse Learning Needs in Education

Many children require support in the classroom, some of whom will have a diagnosis such as autism, ADHD, down syndrome, sensory processing disorders, physical disability and/or a learning disability.

Understanding different types of disabilities is important, however the most empowering support approaches focus on each child according to their individual strengths and specific learning needs.

a lady in a classroom teaching a young girl

Principles of Inclusive Education

Inclusive Education in Mainstream Schools: Inclusive education is a principle which aims to provide all students with the opportunity to learn together in a mainstream setting. It recognises the right of every child to be included and sees diversity as a positive, rather than a negative. The principle of inclusive education values the uniqueness of each student.

Inclusive education aims to ensure every student has access to quality education and receives the supports they need to succeed. This includes:

  • Attending their local school and to be welcomed
  • Accessing and participating in high-quality education and fully engaging in the curriculum
  • Learning in a safe and supportive environment, free from discrimination
  • Achieving academic and social milestones with supports tailored to meet individual learning needs

Segregated Education in Special Schools/Special Development Schools: Schools specifically designed to cater for students with disabilities. They may provide a modified curriculum, specialised equipment, therapy areas, sensory rooms and adaptive technology.
Support workers can choose to work in all levels of education, from early childhood centres to primary and secondary school, and even in further education such as TAFEs and universities. Wherever there are students requiring learning support, there are employment opportunities.

Working with Children in Education

People with a qualification such as Certificate III in Individual Support and Certificate IV in Disability often choose to work in schools because they love working with children and have a passion for education. They want to make a positive impact on the lives of students and support them to achieve personal and academic goals. It also provides a flexible career path with many employment opportunities.

a woman teacher with a young girl educating her in the classroom

Key Attributes to be an Effective Support Worker

A support worker needs to excel in communication.

  • Communication: The role includes communicating clearly with students in the classroom, and is essential ingredient in effective collaboration with teachers, colleagues, parents and families.
  • Empathy & Patience: Empathy and patience are also important attributes to have. Understanding the challenges and feelings of students enables the worker to provide emotional support and create a nurturing environment for students to learn and grow.
  • Respect: Having respect for diversity is important as each student will have their own unique strengths and challenges. Respect for diversity and an understanding of cultural and individual differences are key attributes for support workers in an education setting.

Daily Duties of Educational Support Workers

Daily duties of educational support workers can vary depending on the specific role and the needs of the students they support, but may include assisting with instructions, implementing education and behaviour support plans, providing one-on-one support, adapting materials, using assistive technology, monitoring and assessment of student progress and social inclusion support.

In some situations, an educational support worker will also support students with personal care and the use of specialised equipment.

a little boy getting taught in a classroom

Tips for Thriving as an Educational Support Workers

Build Strong Relationships

Develop positive, respectful and trusting relationships with students, teachers, colleagues and families. Effective support is based on strong relationships.

Communication is Key

Use active listening, empathy, clarity and respect when communicating to establish a positive relationship with students, colleagues and families. Strong communication skills bring people together and break down barriers to inclusion.

Be Flexible and Adaptable

In this role, no two days are the same – expect the unexpected! Regularly adjust your support strategies to meet the changing needs of students and have a positive mindset to change.

Encourage Independence

Empowering students to develop independence is essential, especially when working with students with disabilities. Setting clear expectations, breaking tasks into small steps and offering choices enables students to learn independence and achieve individual goals.

Utilising Assistive Technology and Tools

Many students use assistive technology in their learning environment, particularly in special schools. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices such as speech-generating devices or communication boards can assist students with complex communication needs to express themselves. Other types of technology include screen readers, graphic organisers, reading and writing software, educational apps, adaptive learning platforms and cognitive aids.

Each student should be supported to use assistive technology according to their individual needs. This will empower them to overcome barriers, achieve educational goals and engage in the learning process with confidence.

How to Get Started

Intercare Training can support you with everything you need.

There are two courses to choose from:

Whilst both courses will give you the skills to support students, some employers may prefer workers to have Certificate IV level.

  • Credits: If you start with the Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability), this will provide you with credits which, on completion, can be applied to the Certificate IV in Disability qualification
  • Rolling starts: Start your new career today! Intercare offers immediate starts so you can get going right now
  • More opportunities: Both qualifications also give you the skills to work in areas other than education, such as in disability organisations, in people’s homes, in accommodation settings and in community. There is currently a shortage of well-trained support workers in Australia, so now is the perfect time to make a start
  • Requirements: All students must obtain a police check, working with children check and other requirements as advised
  • Placement: Both courses include practical classes and placement so you can gain real skills and confidence as you learn

If you have a passion for working with children, enjoy a fun and ever-changing workplace and are a great communicator, this is the job for you. You can help shape the future of students, making a real difference in their lives. Start your new career today and be part of the positive change in the world of education.