Teacher (special educational needs): job description

Teacher (special educational needs): job description

Special educational needs teachers provide a general education to children who have behavioural, emotional and/or learning difficulties or who are considered to be ‘gifted’.
If you wish to teach in the state-maintained sector as a special needs teacher you will need qualified teacher status (QTS).

What does a special needs teacher do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Typical job responsibilities include:

  • developing programmes of learning activities
  • planning, preparing and researching lessons
  • preparing and adapting teaching materials
  • making use of special facilities and/or equipment
  • contact and teaching time with students on an individual, class or small group basis
  • checking and assessing students' work and giving feedback
  • encouraging personal development via tutorial and pastoral work
  • attending meetings and reviews
  • liaising with parents, professionals and external agencies
  • writing reports
  • coordinating the work of support staff

Typical employers of special educational needs teachers

Special educational needs teachers work in state-maintained, voluntary-controlled (eg religious aided) and independent schools. Schools may or may not be exclusively for children with special needs. It is also possible to take on a role as a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) in a mainstream school.

Teaching vacancies are advertised online, in local education authority (LEA) jobs lists, local and national newspapers, and in the Times Educational Supplement. Specialist recruitment agencies occasionally advertise vacancies.

Qualifications and training required

Anyone wishing to teach in the state-maintained sector must gain qualified teacher status (QTS) either by taking an education degree, an undergraduate degree followed by a PGCE (Postgraduate or Professional Graduate Certificate in Education), School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), or employment-based School Direct training programmes. You can also take a PGCE through the Teach First programme. In Wales only, you can apply to train on the job through the Graduate Teacher Programme.

Early applications for teacher training places to UCAS Teacher Training are advisable during the first term of your final year.

All candidates must possess GCSEs (grades A-C) in English language and maths. There are also health and criminal record restrictions.

It is normally essential to possess more than two years' post-qualification mainstream teaching experience prior to taking up a special educational needs teaching post. The exception to this is for newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who can demonstrate substantial previous work experience with children with special needs.

If you are not yet at university, read about how to get into teaching in the teaching section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for special educational needs teachers

  • Enthusiasm
  • Imagination
  • Commitment
  • Energy