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Teaching children with special educational needs

Teaching children with special educational needsTeaching children with special educational needs (SEN) is a specialist job with its own challenges and training. Find out how to get started.

What is a SEN teacher?

SEN teachers work with pupils who have a range of different needs. This includes pupils who:

  • have a physical disability
  • have a mental disability
  • have behavioural difficulties
  • have impaired senses (eg. are deaf or blind)
  • have language difficulties, such as dyslexia
  • are emotionally vulnerable

They generally work with small groups of these pupils either within a larger class or separately.

As well as the usual teaching duties, SEN teachers need to create a learning environment that takes the needs of these pupils into account. This might mean using skills like sign language or lip-reading, or using technology and off-site visits to encourage learning. You'll also work with other specialists, such as speech and language therapists, social workers or psychologists.

Exactly what your work involves will depend on the particular needs of the children you are working with, so you'll need to be adaptable enough to identify and respond to them.

What do I need to become a SEN teacher?

SEN teachers qualify in the same way as other teachers, with either a teaching degree, postgraduate study or on-the-job training. You can find out more in our article How do I get into teaching?. All teacher training courses include training on special educational needs.

If you're working with children who have hearing, visual or multi-sensory impairments, you'll need extra training.

Because SEN teaching can particularly challenging, schools often prefer to employ people who have plenty of teaching experience already, but it's certainly not impossible to become a SEN teacher as your first teaching job. To be successful, you'll need:

  • patience and understanding
  • flexibility and positivity
  • the ability to manage difficult behaviour

How much will I earn?

The basic salary will be the same for SEN teachers as for other teachers, but you will also get an extra allowance of around £2,000 to £4,000.