A career in special needs education requires specialist attributes over and above general teaching skills. A key aspect of the job is in identifying individual needs and being able to create supportive and safe learning experiences in an environment that is often challenging and varied.

A successful candidate for a special needs education job will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the position, as well as the complex and varying nature of the individuals in their care. 

A special needs teacher works with children who require extra support, from students with physical disabilities, sensory impairments or mental disabilities such as autism to children with behavioural difficulties, emotional problems or speech and/or language difficulties (e.g. dyslexia), or a combination of these. View our SENCO teaching jobs.

Interviewers will be looking for candidates who can demonstrate they are real specialists in the field: experts at adapting lesson plans who are also knowledgeable on disabilities, an active advocate for student needs and above all, immensely dedicated.

What you need to know about special educational needs (SEN) teaching.

Special needs education is littered with specialist jargon and acronyms, and any candidate applying for a position in the field will be expected to be familiar with the language. Research the schools, as well as the local authority's services and support procedures for students with special needs, and learn what committees and meetings a special needs educator at that school would be expected to attend.

When answering interview questions, ensure an understanding and knowledge of a wide range of disabilities is evident. It's not enough just to know the medical terms: a compassion and understanding for those diagnosed with the condition ought to be apparent.

In the interview, try to put across an ability to work well with other colleagues. Special needs teachers don't need to just connect with students; key to a special needs education job is being able to work closely with other teachers. Successful candidates will sometimes find themselves in difficult situations, where fighting for one individual child's needs requires diplomacy and empathy, so personal characteristics are equally important. 

Compassion, patience, humour, flexibility, creativity, organisation and determination are key qualities for any prospective teachers and teaching assistants, but these personal characteristics are even more important for successful special needs teachers, who can expect a highly demanding but immensely rewarding career ahead of them. 

Our education recruiters have outlined their top interview preparation tips in this video:

SEN teacher interview questions.

  • How would you develop and adapt a daily lesson plan for your special needs students?
  • What kind of materials would you use in the classroom to support your teaching?
  • What have you done to improve your special education teacher knowledge in the last six months?
  • What do you imagine your classroom would look like?
  • How would you interact with general education teachers at the school?

General interview questions.

  • What do you consider to be your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What are your career goals as a special needs teacher?
  • Describe your teaching style.
  • Why do you think you are the right candidate for this job?