Teacher, special education

Teaches children and young people with disabilities and special needs.

Job description

Special educational needs (SEN) teachers provide individual support to pupils with learning disabilities which prevent them from benefiting from the standard system of education.

SEN education helps pupils with specific learning difficulties such as Asperger’s syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia. It also caters for physically disabled pupils, and those with mental, psychological, emotional and social disabilities.

SEN teachers work as resource teachers in mainstream schools, responsible for teaching disadvantaged pupils within the class or in a separate class. Some SEN teachers work in special schools catering for particular disabilities, while others work as part of visiting teacher schemes, providing specialised tuition to a handful of students on a region-by-region basis.

The job, much like that of teachers in general, involves planning and carrying out lessons and various activities to help engage the students. SEN teachers must work with an emphasis on meeting the particular needs of their pupils, perhaps employing a variety of alternative teaching methods to aid the learning process. They may use special equipment, IT and software to engage the students and help them overcome any problems.
The teacher must be flexible and highly resourceful. They must learn to alter their teaching style depending on a range of factors, including the age of the child, severity and nature of the impairment, the child’s educational placement and individual learning needs.

Work activities

  • Assessing and recording children's needs and progress.
  • Helping pupils to cope with and overcome problems that arise because of impairments or learning difficulties.
  • Developing and fostering the appropriate skills and social abilities to enable the optimum development of pupils.
  • Encouraging students to develop self-confidence and independence, and to reach their potential.
  • Setting specific, time-related targets for each child and liaising with parents and education professionals.
  • Teaching the children, either in a separate room or with the other pupils.
  • Advising class teachers about adapting the curriculum, teaching strategies, suitable textbooks, information technology and software and other related matters.
  • Meeting and advising parents.
  • Liaising with other professionals such as psychologists and speech and language therapists.
  • Adapting the National Curriculum and conventional teaching methods to meet individual needs.
  • Using audio-visual materials and computers to stimulate interest and learning.
  • Planning and delivering lessons, setting and marking assignments.

Work conditions

Travel: only a feature of the job for visiting teachers.
Working hours: vary depending on school and level of class taught.
Location: mostly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: unlikely.

Typical employers

  • Schools, primary and secondary level
  • Special needs schools.

Career development

Promotion to positions such as special duties teachers and assistant principals can be achieved at an early stage, although a current suspension on promotion opportunities is in effect. In addition all teachers can compete for posts as deputy principal or principal.


An incremental salary scale operates with additional allowances payable depending on qualifications and additional responsibilities.

Republic of Ireland:

Northern Ireland: Salaries Pdf

Entry requirements

All SEN Teachers either at primary or second level are required to be recognised by the Teaching Council.

Postgraduate study

While a pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not required to work in SEN, the Combined Post Graduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs is a one-year, part-time postgraduate programme of training in inclusive special needs education for teachers working in special schools, special classes, or as resource and learning support teachers in mainstream primary and post-primary schools and other educational services. The course is offered by: St Patrick’s College, Church of Ireland College of Education, St Angela’s College, Mary Immaculate College, University College Dublin, National University of Ireland Galway, University College Cork.

This programme is open to all serving teachers who are employed in a position funded by the Department of Education and Science and who provide learning support and resource teaching in recognised educational services. Teachers serving in special schools and special classes are also eligible to apply.

Specific entry requirements

Applicants to the Combined Post Graduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs should have satisfactorily completed their probationary period and hold a position in a sanctioned post in an area of special education or learning support, or be about to take up such posts.


Further training is provided through in-service courses. Additional specialised programmes are also on offer in a number of colleges of education and universities.

Tips for application

Job applications must be well prepared and error free.

Skills and qualities

  • Highly conscientious and committed to the highest standards of professional service.
  • Creative, friendly, caring, optimistic and adaptable.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Tact and patience.
  • Ability to establish a good working relationship with students.
  • Excellent organisational skills.
  • Caring and motivated by the best interests of the students.
  • Energy and enthusiasm.
  • Willing to engage in ongoing professional development.
  • Ability to relate to different groups of students of different ages and ability levels.
  • Ability to maintain discipline.