what is a special educational needs teacher?

As a special educational needs teacher, or a SEN teacher, you work with children who need additional learning support. Some of the children you teach have physical disabilities and emotional, learning, behavioural and communication difficulties. You can also work with children with dyspraxia, autistic spectrum disorder, sensory impairments and mental health issues.

You provide the same education as other teachers, but you develop individualised learning activities to make it easier for the children to understand. The job requires a lot of patience and enthusiasm. You also need creativity to develop teaching methods and techniques to help you engage the children.

As a special needs education teacher, you teach children individually or in small groups. However, you provide personalised attention to each student through further learning exercises and private sessions. You customise standard teaching methods and introduce specialist equipment and learning tools. For instance, you can use braille for children with visual impairment, sign language for deaf students and computers to assist children with dyslexia. To improve children's learning outcomes, you may liaise with speech therapists and healthcare assistants. They will advise on learning strategies to help the children achieve better results.

Would working in education as a special educational needs teacher suit your passion for teaching children? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a special educational needs teacher role.

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SEN teacher salary

According to National Careers, the average salary of a special educational needs teacher at the beginning of their career is £27,984 per year. With more experience, your earnings can increase to around £46,083 per year.

Apart from basic salaries, you also receive various benefits and allowance. Most employers provide transport and housing allowances. You also enjoy medical and life insurance. When you work overtime, you receive overtime pay at higher hourly rates. Some institutions also have bonuses and other benefits.

what factors affect the salary of special educational needs teachers?

Experience and academic qualifications are the top determiners of salaries for special educational needs teachers. When you have many years of experience or additional qualifications, you will earn more than SEN assistant teachers.

As a special educational needs teacher, your employer influences your salary. When working in the private sector, you are likely to earn more than in government facilities. Small educational institutions also pay less compared to large institutions. Big cities also have better salary prospects compared with smaller towns.


teaching a special child
teaching a special child

types of special educational needs teachers

A SEN teacher can specialise in teaching children with various disabilities. Some of the types of special educational needs teachers include:

  • autism special educational needs teacher: your job is to assist children with a specific developmental disability. Autistic spectrum disorder usually affects social interaction and verbal or nonverbal communication. You develop learning activities that help children interact with others and increase their resilience to environmental changes.
  • learning disability special educational needs teacher: children with learning disabilities usually have difficulty understanding or using written and spoken language. Your job is to help them speak, write and do simple calculations.
  • visual impairment special educational needs teacher: you help special educational needs children with partial or total blindness to learn. You teach them to use specialised techniques like braille for learning activities.


working as a special educational needs teacher

Working as a special educational needs teacher involves assisting young people and children with various disabilities to learn. It is a hands-on job that requires constant interaction with children.


education and skills

Some of the ways of starting your special educational needs teacher career include:

  • university degree: you can start your career with a bachelor's degree in education, arts or science. If your first degree doesn't provide you with QTS (qualified teacher status), you need a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE). Teaching courses come with options for special educational needs training. You need 2 to 3 A levels to join the course for an undergraduate degree.
  • apprenticeship: if you have a degree, you can become a special educational needs teacher by completing a postgraduate teaching apprenticeship. You will start as an SEN teaching assistant before becoming a qualified teacher.

skills and competencies

Some of the skills that a SEN teacher requires include:

  • empathy: as a special educational needs teacher, you need to understand the children and put yourself in their shoes. Empathy allows you to engage with their thought process and help them cope.
  • communication skills: communication is essential in all teaching professions. However, SEN teachers need to hone their skills and qualities to a higher level. Communication skills help you impart knowledge better through verbal and non-verbal communication. You also must be a good listener to understand your pupils.
  • organisational skills: as a special educational needs teacher, you juggle numerous tasks. All children require specialised attention to improve their learning outcomes. Organisational skills help you manage your work and personal life more effectively.
  • flexibility and adaptability: as a special educational needs teacher, you need to adapt your teaching and learning activities to your pupils. Being adaptable and developing new strategies helps them overcome barriers to learning.

teaching special needs children
teaching special needs children


FAQs about working as a special educational needs teacher

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