Special Needs Teacher jobs(Also known as SEN, Special educational needs teacher)
Special Educational Needs Teachers work with children and adults who have sensory, behavioural or mental disabilities. They may also work with extremely gifted individuals. A special educational needs teacher is trained to work exclusively with people who would be unable to progress in a normal school class environment. They work with children and adults with a range of problems such as autism, dyslexia, hyperactivity and blindness. As such, the methods used to convey national curriculum subjects are markedly different to those used in a normal school, involving role-play, touch, sign-language, braille and a host of other special teaching methods. The goals set for each individual student differ greatly, as do the methods used to engage them in learning.
- A newly trained special educational needs teacher in the UK has a starting salary of between £20,000 and £25,000 per annum, depending on location,
- An experienced special educational needs teacher can earn between £25,000 and £35,000 per annum.
- A special educational needs teacher at the top of the pay scale can earn up to £42,000 per annum.
ResponsibilitiesA special educational needs teacher's daily activities may include any of the following:
- Preparing lessons and teaching resources
- Devising innovative ways to communicate national curriculum subjects to students
- Using specialist techniques such as braille, sign language and audio visual equipment
- Taking students on field trips and off-site activities
- Liaising with other service providers such as social workers, physiotherapists and psychologists
- Liaising with parents and other teachers
- Attending regular meetings
- Recording and monitoring students' progress
- Marking submitted work
- Assisting students with severe medical problems
- Undertaking on-going specialist training
QualificationsA special educational needs teacher needs to first train as a school teacher. For more information regarding the qualifications needed see our job profile on school teacher. Once qualified as a teacher, specialist courses need to be taken in order to be able to teach students with different needs. For example to teach deaf children sign-language is needed, braille is necessary for the severely visually impaired and different courses are aimed at those with multiple sensory impairments. Many universities offer these courses as post-graduate or masters' degrees. Other times LEAs (Local Education Authorities) will offer in-service training to existing teachers. Check with your LEA for their exact requirements.
SkillsA special educational needs teacher is a unique and demanding job. The following personal characteristics would be an advantage:
- A caring and patient manner
- A genuine desire to help those less fortunate
- Creative flair and energy
- The ability to deal with challenging situations and individuals
- A great sense of humour
- The ability to motivate and encourage a range of individuals
- A hands-on approach to teaching and personal interaction
Working ConditionsSpecial educational needs teachers usually work within a specialist school, in a classroom environment although they may work with students in normal schools assisting them personally, in youth offender centres, or hospital schools. The hours are standard class times, usually 8am till 4pm from Monday to Friday with some extra hours required for marking. Field trips and extra curricular activities can take place at the weekends, and these are usually organised with the help of parents or other carers. Being a special educational needs teacher is a physically and emotionally demanding job. The needs of many pupils are often severe, requiring constant attention and the atmosphere in a classroom is vibrant and often unpredictable. However, the emotional response from otherwise disadvantaged students and their tangible progress makes it an immensely engaging job that is often more stimulating and rewarding for the capable professional than regular teaching.
ExperienceAny experience working with disadvantaged individuals would be useful, so look into charity work and volunteering. To work as a special needs teacher a certain amount of regular classroom experience must first be obtained. Some LEAs may also specify a period working as a special educational needs teacher assistant.
EmployersLocal Education Authorities hire the majority of special educational needs teachers. Independent and private schools are responsible for their own recruitment, so contact them directly.
Career ProgressionMany special educational needs teachers come from the background of being special educational needs teacher assistants where they can gain a lot of valuable experience. Training for special educational needs teachers is ongoing and post-graduate degrees can be taken part-time while continuing to work. This may lead to being able to teach individuals with different types of disabilities and increased earnings as a result. For accomplished teachers there is the career path to special educational needs coordinator, head teacher or special educational needs consultant (teaching other teachers).
Related ResourcesLearning Disability Wales - a national charity representing the learning disability sector in Wales.
Natalie Menser, 30, is a special needs teacher working in Bethnal Green, East London.