Special educational needs teacher
35 per week
£22,023 + per year
Special educational needs (SEN) teachers work with children and young people who have difficulties or disabilities. These children find learning harder than for most children of the same age. If you want to help children and you are looking for a role in education, this job could be perfect for you.
To become a special educational needs teacher, you will need to be able to deal with challenging behaviour. You’ll also need good organisational skills.
To work as a special needs teacher you will need to have a teaching qualification and teaching experience.
This job could include teaching children with:
- mild to moderate learning difficulties
- specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia
- physical disabilities
- hearing or visual impairment
- emotional or behavioural problems.
As an SEN teacher your work would involve:
- teaching National Curriculum subjects, which may have been adapted to pupils’ needs
- helping pupils to develop their self-confidence, independence, abilities and attitudes
- preparing lessons and teaching materials
- marking and assessing work
- putting up displays in the classroom
- working with other professionals, such as medical professionals, speech and language therapists and educational psychologists
- speaking to parents and carers about their children's progress
- going to meetings and training
- organising outings, social activities and sporting events.
You can find out about National Curriculum subjects on the following website:
You could work in an ordinary class, a special class in a mainstream school, or in a special school. You could teach pupils individually or in small groups, and you would often be helped by teaching assistants. You can also work as an SEN teacher in a further education college.
Working hours and conditions
Full-time teachers work an average 37 hours a week, with typical class time starting between 8.30am and 9.15am and finishing around 3.15pm to 4pm. Teachers may spend more time outside of normal hours, planning lessons, marking work and also taking part in activities, such as parents' evenings and outings.
The main salary scale is from £22,023 to £32,187 a year (£27,543 to £37,119 in inner London).
Teachers who reach the top of the main salary scale may be able to progress to the higher scale. This ranges from £34,869 to £37,496 (£42,332 to £45,905 in inner London).
There are also separate scales for teachers who have advanced skills or progress into leadership roles, and additional payments for those who take on extra responsibilities.
See details of all the salary scales on the Department for Education website.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To work as an SEN teacher in a state school you will need a teaching qualification and mainstream teaching experience.
Most independent schools will also prefer you to be a qualified teacher, although it is not always essential.
For details of entry requirements and routes to becoming a qualified teacher, see the Early years teacher, Primary school teacher and Secondary school teacher job profiles on this site, and the NCTL information on routes into teaching.
You can also work as an SEN teacher in further education (FE) college with the right qualifications. You can find more information about these qualifications on our job profile for Further education lecturer.
You may be eligible for a training bursary if you are looking to become a special needs teacher in further education. Visit the GOV.UK website for more details.
- GOV.UK (FE training bursary guide)
Training and development
Your initial teacher training course will include some elements on special needs and once you are a qualified and experienced teacher, you can take further training for special educational needs organised through your school and local education authority.
You can also take a postgraduate certificate, diploma or master’s degree in special educational needs, learning difficulties or special education at a number of universities. Course content and titles vary according to the type of special education or disability being covered.
You will need specific qualifications to teach pupils with hearing impairment, such as British Sign Language, visual impairment or multi-sensory impairment. Universities and colleges run training courses as do some of the organisations in the More information section.
To work with children with visual impairment and become a Qualified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (QTVI), you will need to take a mandatory postgraduate qualification in this specialist field.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become a special educational needs teacher, you will need to have:
- an interest in the education and welfare of pupils
- good communication and 'people' skills
- the ability to work in a team but also use your own initiative
- good organisational skills
- the ability to manage classes and deal with challenging behaviour
- willingness to assist with personal care needs if necessary
- patience and a good sense of humour.
Mandale Business Park
Durham DH1 1TH
Tel: 0191 383 1155
Textphone: 0191 383 7915
National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) - Get into Teaching
Teaching Information Line (freephone): 0800 389 2500
Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB)
105 Judd Street
Tel: 020 7388 1266
British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
You will find most opportunities for SEN teaching in mainstream schools.
In mainstream schools, you may have the opportunity to progress to special educational needs co-ordinator, or head of the special needs department. In special schools, you could be promoted to deputy headteacher or headteacher.
There are also opportunities to work in pupil referral units, hospital schools or youth custody centres.
You may find the following links useful for vacancies and general reading:
Job market information
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The 'Market statistics' charts are based on figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The list of job vacancies under 'Apply for jobs' is from the Universal Jobmatch database. The vacancies are not from the National Careers Service.