What qualifications do i need to work with special needs children?

What qualifications do I need to work with special needs children?

Working with children with special needs and learning difficulties can be a valuable and rewarding role. Many teachers spend a few years in the classroom before deciding they’d like to move into this area to provide support to children with learning difficulties. Others have already decided this is the area of education they want to have a career in from the outset, before they’ve gained any teaching qualifications or experience.

There are several avenues a person can take to become a teacher for children with special educational needs. These teachers are also known as SEN teachers for short.

The Qualifications you will need for an SEN Teaching Role

The qualifications required for a SEN teaching role will depend on the school itself and the position. Different schools will have different basic requirements and will list the qualifications they expect in order to apply for the position. Therefore, it’s always worth browsing through the job vacancies, even if you don’t feel you have the qualifications and experience required. In doing so, you may find some schools are happy to take on teachers with little to no SEN teaching experience and train them as they go. You may also be able to undertake a qualification to help you gain the relevant skills and experience as you work.

The qualifications required will depend on the avenue you take to get into SEN teaching.

College courses

If you want to apply for a college course such as a Level 2 or 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools, a Level 3 Diploma in Childcare, or an Early Education & Childcare T Level, you may need a certain level of education before you can get in.

To obtain a place on a college course, you are likely to have achieved:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths for a T level


Suppose you decide to go down the apprenticeship route. In that case, you could look into applying for an apprenticeship as an intermediate early years practitioner, an advanced early years educator, or an advanced teaching assistant. To gain entry onto one of these courses, you may need at least some GCSE qualifications (Maths and English being the most essential) for intermediate apprenticeships and at least 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent (including English and Maths) for the advanced apprenticeships.

Other avenues to get into SEN teaching

Suppose you don’t have the above qualifications. In that case, you may also start your SEN teacher career by volunteering in a school that may offer you a permanent place or that helps support you in gaining a relevant qualification. You could also volunteer for other roles working with children with disabilities or learning difficulties. Applying directly for positions in schools where the entry requirements are low could also be another option.

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