Special Educational Needs Teacher

Job Description:

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) teachers work with children and young people who need extra support.

Job Category:

What you will do:

You’ll work with children who have:

  • general learning difficulties
  • specific learning difficulties like dyslexia
  • physical disabilities
  • hearing or visual impairment
  • challenging emotions or behaviour

You could work in a mixed class, a special class in a mainstream school, a special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) school, a pupil referral unit or a further education college. You may teach whole classes, individual pupils or small groups, often supported by a teaching assistant.

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • teaching national curriculum subjects
  • helping pupils develop self-confidence, independence and abilities
  • preparing lessons and teaching materials
  • marking and assessing work
  • working with medical staff, therapists and psychologists
  • talking to parents and carers about a child’s progress
  • attending meetings, statutory reviews and training workshops
  • organising outings, social activities and sporting events


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • sensitivity and understanding
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
  • the ability to create the best conditions for learning or teaching new things
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptability skills)
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Special Educational Needs (SEN) Teacher, you’ll need a strong educational background and specific training in special education. Here are some subjects and skills that can help prepare you for this career:

  1. Mathematics and English Language: These are often mandatory subjects and provide the foundational communication and mathematical skills necessary for teaching.
  2. Science: A general understanding of science principles can be valuable, especially if you plan to teach science to students with special needs.
  3. Psychology: If your school offers psychology courses, this subject can provide insights into human behaviour and development, which are relevant to special education.
  4. Health and Social Care: This subject can be beneficial if it’s available, as it covers topics related to healthcare and support for individuals with special needs.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
    an apprenticeship
    working towards this role
    applying directly

You can do an undergraduate degree that leads to qualified teacher status (QTS), for example:

  • Bachelor of Education (BEd)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) with QTS
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc) with QTS

You can also complete a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), if you have a first degree without QTS. This is a common choice and can be done at university or on a school-based training programme.

There are more training options if you want to change career or specialise in teaching certain subjects.

Most teaching courses include options on teaching children with special educational needs.

You can get into this career through a postgraduate teaching apprenticeship, if you have a degree.

You could start as a teaching assistant and do a part-time degree. From there, you can move onto a postgraduate teaching course to qualify as a teacher.

You’ll find it helpful to get some experience of working with young people with special educational needs or disabilities through paid work or volunteering at a school, youth club or on a holiday scheme.

Direct Application
If you’re a qualified teacher, you can get extra training to teach pupils with special educational needs. In the UK, many local education authorities offer courses for teachers who want to do this.

Career tips
You can attend train to teach events before you apply to get advice about the profession, the different training routes and funding. You can attend events in person and online.

Restrictions and Requirements
You’ll need to:

  • pass enhanced background checks as you may work with children and vulnerable adults

To teach pupils with hearing impairment, vision impairment or multi-sensory impairment, you’ll need further specialist qualifications.

Working Hours and Environment:

You’ll usually work 37 hours a week for 39 weeks a year, split over 3 school terms.

You’ll spend extra time planning lessons, marking work and taking part in school activities.

You could work at a school, at a special needs school or at a pupil referral unit.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.

Career Path & Progression:

You could become a special needs co-ordinator (SENCO), responsible for the whole school special educational needs strategy. You could take on managerial roles like head of department, key stage co-ordinator, deputy head or headteacher.

You may be able to transfer your specialist skills and knowledge to the role of local authority special needs assessment officer.

There are opportunities to move into higher education lecturing, teacher training, private training or tuition.