Those wishing to pursue a career in education and with an interest in working with children with complex needs may wish to consider training to become a special educational needs (SEN) teacher. As an SEN teacher, you will get to work with children and young people with a range of needs that mean they require additional support to meet their educational goals.
This includes working with students who have physical disabilities, learning difficulties, sensory impairments, speech and language difficulties, autism, and/or mental health needs. In many cases, children and young people may have a mixture of needs and some will be gifted and talented. All, however, will benefit greatly from special needs education delivered by high-quality and specially trained SEN teachers.
Becoming a SEN Teacher
As an SEN teacher, you will provide a tailored programme of learning to your students in line with the curriculum but in response to specific needs, using specialist tools (for example audio-visual materials) as required.
Teaching may be delivered one-to-one or in small groups, both inside and outside of the classroom. Your role will also involve working with fellow teachers, parents and other professionals, including speech and language specialists, in order to assess children and young people who have been identified as potentially having special needs. This will be followed by the development of a programme of support for them.
Some students will require their SEN teacher to have specific skills: braille, for example, if they are visually impaired, or sign language for those with hearing impairments. Other skills needed include a commitment to working with students who have special educational needs, as it can be challenging at times. A positive attitude, enthusiasm for the role and a sense of humour will also help here, as will flexibility. Working in this field will require you to react to situations quickly and adapt your approach accordingly, including in response to behaviours that challenge.
To become an SEN teacher, you will need to have qualified teacher status in England and Wales or the teaching qualification in Scotland, which can be gained by completing one of a range of degree-level qualifications, a postgraduate certificate of education, or a Teach First or School Direct teacher-training programme. And, whilst initial teacher-training courses include a special educational needs element, you will also need to take further training or qualifications to become an SEN teacher.
This may include certificates and diplomas, or a masters in special educational needs, one of the pathways offered by the University of Exeter through its online MA in Education programme. The programme allows you to explore concepts, consider different approaches and look at issues surrounding special educational needs, not just in the UK, but around the world. This helps to prepare you for your future career as an SEN teacher and ensures that you provide students with complex needs with the best educational opportunities possible.
What Can You Expect to Earn?
SEN teachers can expect to earn approximately £22,467 to £38,250 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with additional allowances of £2,064 to £4,075. In Scotland, the range is approximately £22,416 to £43,845.
Those with at least two years' experience can look to become a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). SENCOs are typically heads of special educational needs departments and hold responsibility for SEN policy within a school and day-to-day special needs education provision. Other options for career progression are deputy head or head teacher at a special needs school, lecturer posts in higher education or special needs officers for a local authority.