Special Educational Needs Postgraduate Courses

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According to the Education for Person’s with Special Education Needs (SEN) Act 2004, students are to be educated as far as possible in an inclusive environment in mainstream classrooms. Students with special needs may be educated in ordinary classes in mainstream schools or in smaller classes in mainstream schools with a low teacher-to-pupil ratio – including one-to-one settings and, in some cases, ‘special schools’ that are dedicated to educating those with special needs. All such instances require trained professionals to deliver lessons in the most suitable way for the individual student’s specific needs.

Special Educational Needs Qualifications

Special Educational Needs teachers are essential for the provision of learning support to those experiencing difficulty with the standard curriculum. All teachers receive some training in special education needs while completing the Postgraduate Diploma in Education; however, given the fact that mainstream schools often have students with special needs, completing a postgraduate course in Special Education Needs would be of benefit to any teacher, but would be especially so for those wishing to work solely as special educational needs teachers.

The importance of Inclusion

The increase and encouragement of inclusive education has meant that the number of students with special needs in mainstream education has grown. Past studies have shown that students educated in mainstream inclusive classrooms ‘show academic gains in a number of areas including improved performance on standardised tests … grades, on-task behaviour and motivation to learn’ (National Centre for Education Restructuring and Inclusion, 1995).

Students with many different special needs come through the mainstream education system. Some of the students may have reading difficulties such as dyslexia, while others may have autism or other behavioural or emotional difficulties. In some instances students may have average, or above average, intelligence and simply need to be taught in a way that is appropriate to them, while in other instances this may not be the case. Taking a Postgraduate Diploma in Special Education Needs gives student teachers an insight into how they should go about teaching those with special needs in the most effective way. It is a certainty that all teachers will, at some point in their careers, come into contact with pupils with different needs. Continued professional development is therefore extremely important in order for them to adapt to such an eventuality.

Courses Available

There are many different postgraduate SEN courses offered at numerous institutions and universities across Ireland. These courses are normally aimed at qualified teachers already in employment. For instance, Grad Dip Inclusive and Special Education, which is a one-year full-time programme. Support is available from the Department of Education and Science for qualified teachers who hold or are eligible to hold permanent teaching positions. This funding by the Department of Education and Science is offered so that a teacher who wishes to develop expertise in special needs education can have the opportunity to do so. There are a number of fee-paying places also reserved for suitably qualified graduate teachers who are not eligible for Department of Education and Science support.

University College Dublin also offers an MEd in Inclusive Education, which is a two-year part-time programme. Again, the programme is designed for teachers or other professionals involved in the education or care of persons with special educational needs. Maynooth University, together with Froebel College, operate a one-year part-time Postgraduate Diploma in Special Education Needs. This programme is designed for teachers working with pupils with a range of special education needs in mainstream primary, secondary and special school settings, and is compatible with full-time employment.

Other options in the area include DCU’s Grad Dip in Inclusive Education, Learning Support and Special Education. The course is aimed at teachers who are employed in a position funded by the Department of Education and Science who provide learning support and resource teaching at primary, post-primary and other recognised educational services. Another viable programme is NUI Galway and St Angela’s College Sligo’s one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Special Education. The course is delivered through a blend of online and face-to-face tutorials, along with supervised work in the teachers’ own schools or centres.

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Continuing professional development is essential for any teacher. Undertaking a postgraduate course in Special Education Needs will assist this professional development and help teachers and pupils alike to maximise their teaching and learning experience.


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  1. Susan mc eneaney 29th January 2019 at 9:35 am

    Hi I’m a sna for 17 yrs I want to know what I need to qualify for this coarse. Regards Susan

    1. Gemma Creagh 11th February 2019 at 4:25 pm

      Hello Susan,

      Your first step would be to contact the Training Providers who run these courses and see what exactly you need to qualify. Sometimes if you don’t have the exact undergraduate degree, but you have a lot of recognised, relevant experience and on-the-job training, they might take that into consideration. If I were you, I would reach out to the department heads in Maynooth, DCU and UCD and see what you need to apply. Check on their sites for open days too. For example, it might be beneficial to go along to this event on the 20th http://www.ucd.ie/graduateadmissions/open-evening/ Best of luck!

  2. Miriam Heskin 12th May 2021 at 11:11 am

    Good morning, I am interested in doing a postgraduate in the area of Special Education Needs. I am currently a substitute teacher in Comeragh College in Carrick. Unfortunately at the time of my degree I didn’t do my H Dip, one of my biggest regrets. I would very much like to find a role within the education system teaching and helping students. I would really appreciate any advise you could offer me.

    Kind regards
    Miriam Heskin

  3. Emma Lynch 8th November 2023 at 5:37 pm

    Is the H Dip in Special Education and Inclusion at Hibernia acknowledged in ireland?

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