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Special educational needs teacher: Entry requirements

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To become a special educational needs (SEN) teacher in a mainstream school, qualified teacher status (QTS) is required in England and Wales or the teaching qualification (TQ) in Scotland.

While most independent schools also require QTS status, this is not always essential.

QTS status is generally achieved by completing one of the following qualifications:

  • Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE);
  • School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT);
  • Bachelor of Education (BEd);
  • BA or BSc with QTS;
  • Teach First (England only) - a two-year programme including a PGCE, where top graduates are placed in challenging schools;
  • School Direct (England and Wales only) - a school-based training route with the expectation that participants will go on to work in the school or partnership of schools in which they trained. In most, but not all cases, a PGCE accredited by a higher education institution (HEI) will be awarded.

In Scotland, the TQ is usually achieved by completing the Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE).

There is a special educational needs element to all initial teacher training (ITT) courses. Qualified teachers can also undertake additional training to teach pupils with special educational needs.

Entry is not possible with a HND only. In England and Wales, candidates who have successfully completed two years of higher education - someone with a HND would qualify - may opt to take a shortened two-year degree with QTS. You can apply for this route via Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) .

Specific qualifications are required to teach pupils with hearing, visual or multi-sensory impairments. To find out which universities offer qualifications in these specialised areas, as well as further details on entry requirements and routes to becoming a qualified teacher, see teacher training.

An enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is required for anyone working with children or young adults in the UK. Without a DBS check, an individual is not allowed to work with children unsupervised.

An application for a DBS check needs to be completed before beginning a course that leads to QTS. In the first instance, this will be through the training body. This check will be repeated by any subsequent employer once training is complete. For more information, see the Disclosure and Barring Service .

For criminal record checks in Scotland and Northern Ireland see:

Candidates need to show evidence of the following:

  • commitment to working with pupils with special educational needs;
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
  • initiative and problem-solving skills;
  • the ability to manage confrontation and challenging behaviour;
  • team working skills;
  • organisational skills;
  • an observant and responsive approach;
  • flexibility - it is important to be able to respond to the needs of the children and adapt or change plans accordingly;
  • a positive, energetic and enthusiastic outlook;
  • patience, understanding and empathy with pupils and parents;
  • a sense of humour.

Mature entry into SEN teaching is common, as teachers generally have several years' experience before entering the profession. However, some schools do recruit newly qualified teachers.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.

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Written by Gemma Halder, AGCAS
February 2015

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