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 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 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.
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, UCD offer the Combined Postgraduate Diploma in Education in Special Education Needs, 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 Special Education Needs, 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. Hibernia College runs various courses, including Drama and Inclusion of Pupils with SEN and Autism: Promoting the Social Communications Skills of Students with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. NUI Maynooth, 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 St Patrick’s College Drumcondra’s one-year part-time PGdip in SEN. 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 St Angela’s College Sligo’s one-year part-time PGdip in SEN (one year part time). 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.
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.
Postgrad.ie - Ireland's leading guide to universities, colleges, third-level and PLC courses is published under licence by Seats Are Ltd T/A Careers Unlimited. Reg in Ireland No. 533272. Registered Trademark. All rights reserved.