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Teaching in an SEN setting is a rewarding career. Special educational needs (SEN) teachers work with children who need additional support or who require an advanced learning programme to reach their full potential in the classroom.


SEN Teachers work with students who have sensory impairments (i.e., visual or hearing), physical disabilities, learning difficulties like dyslexia, conditions such as autism or a combination of learning difficulties. As an SEN teacher, you may also work with gifted and talented students who require advanced challenges beyond the standard curriculum.


Central to the role is the ability to identify and address the unique needs of each student while creating a safe and supportive learning environment. 


In this article, we will outline the responsibilities, skills, qualifications, salary expectations and career prospects of SEN teachers. 

Responsibilities of an SEN Teacher


As an SEN teacher, you will have a range of roles and responsibilities. These may include:


  • Teaching individuals or small groups of pupils, either within or outside the classroom setting. 
  • Developing and delivering lesson plans and educational resources tailored to the unique needs of pupils with special educational needs (SEN). 
  • Assessing students’ work to gauge progress and adjusting teaching strategies accordingly. 
  • Adapting teaching methods to accommodate diverse learning styles and abilities, ensuring equal access to the curriculum. 
  • Utilising specialised equipment and facilities, such as audio-visual materials and assistive technology, to enhance learning outcomes and support student engagement. 
  • Employing specialised skills, such as teaching Braille or sign language, to cater to the specific needs of pupils with visual or hearing impairments. 
  • Ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Equality Act (2010), including implementing reasonable adjustments and access arrangements for pupils with SEN. 
  • Coordinating with a team of professionals, such as social workers, therapists, and educational psychologists, to address students’ comprehensive needs. 
  • Effectively communicating with parents and guardians, providing regular updates on students’ progress and collaborating on intervention strategies. 
  • Organising learning experiences beyond the classroom, including community visits, outings, and sporting events. 
  • Helping with personal care and medical needs for severely disabled pupils, as required. 
  • Managing administrative tasks, including maintaining accurate records of students’ progress and participation. 
  • Implementing effective behaviour management strategies to create a positive and inclusive learning environment. 

Working Hours and What To Expect


In an SEN teaching role, individuals can expect a challenging but fulfilling experience. SEN teachers positively impact the lives of students with special educational needs. Depending on the school’s policies, SEN teachers may find themselves stationed within traditional classrooms supporting SEN students or working within specialised units.


While travel requirements vary, SEN teachers may occasionally attend meetings, training sessions, or conferences. Although some residential trips may occur, overnight stays away from home are infrequent.


SEN teachers operate within a 39-week academic year, with workdays typically starting around 8:30 am and ending between 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm. Additionally, a portion of the week is allocated for planning, preparation, and assessment (PPA), with additional tasks often extending into evenings and school holidays.


For those seeking flexibility, Sugarman have several part-time or supply teaching opportunities, along with potential career break options. You can click here to view our latest SEN teaching roles.

SEN Teacher Skills and Knowledge


SEN teachers have a range of skills and knowledge that enable them to effectively support children with special needs. These inlcude:


  • Commitment to working with pupils with special educational needs
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Proficient in behaviour management, handling confrontation and challenging behaviour effectively
  • Initiative, problem-solving skills, and adaptability to changing needs
  • Organisational skills to manage tasks efficiently
  • Observant and responsive approach to address diverse pupil needs
  • Flexibility in adapting plans and interventions as required
  • Dedication to diversity, equality, and inclusive practices in the classroom
  • Knowledge on safeguarding and welfare
  • A positive, energetic, and enthusiastic outlook
  • Demonstrating patience, understanding, and empathy towards pupils and families

How to Become an SEN Teacher


To become an SEN teacher in England, you must obtain qualified teacher status (QTS). You can achieve QTS by completing a degree and undergoing initial teacher training (ITT). This can be an undergraduate Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a BA/BSc with QTS. Postgraduate training options are also available, leading to QTS status, such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or school-led training programs.


Some teacher training courses include a special educational needs (SEN) element, while others offer enhanced SEN training or specialisation. These programs cover essential training and skills for working with SEN pupils, including specific modules and practical experiences in special schools or units.


Experience in mainstream teaching is often preferred before entering SEN teaching, although some schools may recruit newly qualified teachers directly into SEN roles. Qualified teachers can also pursue additional training to teach pupils with special educational needs.


For teaching pupils with hearing, vision, or multi-sensory impairments, a specific qualification beyond QTS is required. This entails completing approved courses tailored to these specialisations. For a list of approved courses, see Mandatory qualifications: specialist teachers.


Additionally, an enhanced disclosure and barring service (DBS) check is mandatory to work with children or young adults in England. This ensures the safety and safeguarding of vulnerable individuals. At Sugarman Education, we can help you through this process.

Work Experience


Gaining relevant experience is crucial for aspiring SEN teachers to enhance their understanding of the role and assess their suitability for teaching. Here’s how you can gain valuable experience:


  • Seek work experience in a classroom setting, as it provides insight into the role and requirements of teaching. Many postgraduate courses and teacher training programs consider classroom experience essential for applicants.
  • Use resources like the Get School Experience service to request school experience or directly approach schools for volunteer placements. Your university careers service or school of education can assist in finding local opportunities.
  • Visit various schools that support SEN pupils, including mainstream and specialist schools, to observe lessons and engage with teachers. This experience allows you to understand different teaching approaches and environments.
  • Consider volunteering as a special needs teaching assistant to gain direct experience in supporting SEN pupils. Such roles provide valuable insights into the challenges and rewards of working with SEN students. Click here to find out more about volunteering in schools.
  • Explore voluntary opportunities to work with children with special needs, which can be found in youth clubs, mentoring programs, tutoring services, summer camps, and play schemes. General experience with children or young people with disabilities or learning difficulties is also beneficial.
  • Research different types of work experience and internships available to gain exposure to diverse educational settings and student populations.

SEN Teacher Salary


According to TotalJobs, the average salary for an SEN teacher in London is £49,439 per year (2024 academic year). An SEN teacher’s starting point depends on the employer, your qualifications and level of responsibility.


You can expect a starting salary of around £44,221 per year. After gaining experience, teachers who reach the top of the main scale can apply to be assessed for progression to the upper pay scale. Salaries for lead practitioners can rise to £67,685.


Details about pay are available from the teaching unions and the Department for Education (DfE) Get Into Teaching website.

Career Progression Opportunities


Career paths for SEN teachers offer various opportunities for advancement and specialisation within the field of special education. With experience as an SEN teacher, individuals can pursue several career paths, including:


Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo)

Experienced SEN teachers may choose to undergo further training to become a SENCo. SENCo’s lead the special educational needs department in a school, overseeing the implementation of SEN policy and providing support for pupils with special educational needs.


Leadership Roles

SEN teachers can progress into leadership positions within schools, such as head of department or head of year/key-stage coordinator in secondary schools. With further experience, they may advance to senior management roles like deputy head or headteacher, where they can contribute to the strategic direction of the school.


Special Needs Officer

Some SEN teachers transition into roles as special needs officers or special needs assessment officers within Local Authorities (LAs). In these positions, they assess the provision required to meet children’s special educational needs, manage the process, and make recommendations for support.


Training and Education

Experienced SEN teachers may opt to move into training roles, providing courses and support to other SEN teachers. Additionally, they may pursue lecturing positions in further or higher education institutions, where they can share their expertise and contribute to the professional development of future educators.

A career as an SEN teacher offers a fulfilling and rewarding opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of students with special educational needs. The ideal candidate for this role possesses a genuine commitment to working with diverse learners, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, adaptability, patience, and a passion for promoting inclusive education. 


As an SEN teacher, you’ll have the chance to support and empower students to reach their full potential, create inclusive learning environments, and collaborate with colleagues and families to ensure every child receives the support they need to succeed. 


While the role may present challenges, the opportunity to witness the progress and growth of your students makes it a rewarding profession. If you’re passionate about making a difference in the lives of others and advocating for inclusive education, a career as an SEN teacher may be the perfect fit for you. 


Are you looking for a job within SEN education? Check out our latest SEN roles by clicking below. 


View latest SEN jobs