Our partner school, English Schools Foundation HK ESF offers options for students with special educational needs.

Special Educational Needs (SEN) is now recognised and implemented across most countries and schools, internationally. While in the past some countries stigmatised special educational needs, this is changing rapidly and the move towards inclusivity has meant a higher need for programmes that support all types of learning. The demand for teachers training in SEN is therefore on the rise, too. Thinking of becoming a special education teacher? Read on for advice on how to become certified, requirements, and expectations in the classrooms.

What are Special Educational Needs (SEN)? 

The term “Special educational needs” isn’t the easiest to define as it has developed to encompass a wide range of learning needs. On a broad level Special Educational Needs, often referred to as SEN,  is ascribed to students in need of support in different ways and ranges across learning, behavioural and physical support. This covers learning difficulties such as dyslexia to developmental conditions affecting speech or motor skills and behavioural conditions. 

From Relocate Global’s Guide to International Education & Schools 2018/19 in their article on the changing face of SEN in schools.

What is a SEN teacher? 

Students in need of extra support in a learning environment may require extra support. This is where the Special Educational needs teacher comes in! Working closely with students, they support them in their learning environment. This can be in group settings, 1:1, or as additional support in a regular classroom setting. In schools, Special education teachers are hired to adapt lessons to the direct needs of the students, promoting a more inclusive learning environment.

Special education needs (SEN) in International Schools

SEN in international schools varies depending on the country. Some countries adopt SEN programs in their schools more willingly than others. In previous years some countries and areas of the globe often stigmatised learning difficulties, so being labeled  SEN could be seen as problematic for students and parents. This is changing rapidly and now many schools adopt SEN as a school-wide approach promoting SEN as a model of inclusivity. Emily Parkman our operations director shared the following:: 

“SEN is an area that over the last few years has grown a lot in international education. Schools realised that some of their student population needed additional support and that they needed to provide this. Up until a few years ago, it wasn’t recognised as important in international education so it wasn’t well resourced.” 

Why become a SEN teacher? 

SEN teacher jobs are available wide and far. While the recognition of SEN specific departments is in increasing numbers of international schools, the importance of having SEN specific teachers and plans are needed. So why become a SEN teacher?


Enabling students to gain autonomy in their learning and build confidence can be incredibly rewarding as a teacher as you watch their progress. 


As SEN becomes more internationally recognised the demand for international educators across the world grows. There is always a demand for SEN teachers. You can check out our Special Educational Needs teacher vacancies, or sign up with Teacher Horizons if you haven’t already! 


Being a SEN teacher means being part of a community committed to inclusivity and growth. While it is not without its challenges, it means you are entering into a supportive community of teachers with a clear motivation. 

SEN teacher qualifications

Depending on where you have trained as a teacher this might vary, but often SEN teachers need a bachelor’s degree in a related field and a teaching licence/certificate. Education related study at bachelor level often includes courses in behavioural support, diagnostic assessment and differential instruction of which all are useful for teaching SEN in the classroom. The best way to develop as a SEN teacher is to gain experience on the job. Some people have entered this profession by being a teaching assistant to a SEN teacher first and then taking the required training. Otherwise, training as a teacher and then being in the classroom while focusing your professional development on gaining skills related to SEN is useful, such as training that supports understanding cognitive behaviour and processes. 

The future of SEN in international schools. 

The global pandemic has allowed for many things to be reconsidered in international education. It’s been an interesting time for SEN. During the lockdown, SEN students have had to adapt to different environments of learning and many questioned how SEN would translate to homeschooling. For some this home environment actually played to their strengths. One parent of a child with Autism spoke positively regarding at-home learning: “My son is less tired by not having to think of all the extras like finding rooms, packing bags, following a timetable, rushing lunch, etc. He is enjoying the way work is set now as a home is quieter and calmer for him.” Another parent of a child who has ADHD said her daughter walks around the room listening to audiobooks with headphones on and doesn’t need to sit still to learn – something which might not be possible at school. These are positive aspects of maximizing the learning experience and will be useful as more schools look towards blended learning approaches and potentially more distance learning in the future.

We will write more on the topic of SEN in the future, so reach out to us to share your experiences of SEN in international schools at editor@teacherhorizons.com

Connect. Support. Discover.
We're the world's leading community of international teachers. More than just a job search, Teacher Horizons is your online home, wherever your journey takes you.