Special educational needs (SEN) teachers work with children and young
people who have learning difficulties and disabilities. These may be
because students are physically disabled, have visual or hearing impairments,
are emotionally vulnerable or suffer from other learning difficulties.
SEN teachers may be involved in helping students who have difficulties
SEN teachers should be able to communicate in the most appropriate way for their students, be patient and be able to motivate students. Most SEN teachers work in mainstream schools. Some work in special schools, and others work in pupil referral units, community homes, hospital schools and youth custody centres. There is a shortage of SEN teachers.
To work in a state school, people must first qualify as a teacher and have at least two years’ teaching experience. Independent schools also prefer this. For more general information about becoming a teacher, see School Teacher.
Teachers wishing to go on to specialise in teaching students with visual, hearing or multi-sensory impairment can take further qualifications. Universities and colleges offer full-time courses (one year) or part-time and distance learning training courses (these last two years).
There are also courses for qualified teachers to teach students with other special educational needs. Some are general, while others concentrate on a particular area, eg dyslexia or autism. Most are part time and last several months.
It is possible to become deputy headteacher or headteacher in a special
school. Promotion in a mainstream school can be to special educational
needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or head of the special needs department.