Colm O'Donovan is a lecturer on the new MA Inclusive Education and SEN at Portobello Institute, with extensive experience working as a resource teacher in primary education.
In this blog, he shares his insights into the benefits of an MA in Inclusive Education and SEN for SNAs and teachers in primary education.
The Benefits of an MA in Inclusive Education and SEN for SNAs and Teachers in Primary Education
As all teachers know your honours degree touches on additional needs, of course, but it ill-equips any of us for what we deal with on a daily basis.
The breadth of the autism spectrum and the differing needs and challenges that children can present with under that one umbrella can pose challenges for the most highly trained professional in the field.
This is only one of the countless areas we are expected to be ‘experts’ on and even though this is not our role often we in schools are the only people parents can talk to given the ever-increasing waiting lists in our health system.
Out in the real world of education in 2023 someone becoming a special needs teacher, or additional needs teacher can just be a matter of chance in the staffing of a school and teachers thrust into the role can feel a little bit at sea, to put it mildly.
Similarly for an SNA, even one with a degree in the educational field, whose training may leave them gasping for air when placed in a special school or a special class setting.
Over my fifteen years working as a class teacher, AET and Home School Liaison in a DEIS school I have completed numerous CPD courses and been exposed to a myriad of programmes in all areas of the field. Behaviour, literacy, numeracy, working with parents and working with traumatised people but none have had as much of an impact as my postgraduate qualification in Inclusive and Special Education.
Choosing to do a postgraduate qualification while also working is a big commitment for anyone to take on. With a young family and a self-employed partner, I was handed a new responsibility in my school as Acting Deputy Principal the same year I signed up for the course.
I was worried I wouldn’t be able to juggle it all but in fact, the course ended up helping me rather than hindering me.
The skills and knowledge I picked up from the lecturers and tutors as well as the course content gave me so much more confidence in carrying out my role as a special education teacher that I actually felt under less pressure.
I learned about the characteristics of disabilities, treatments and interventions, and teaching strategies all of which gave me a greater understanding of genuine inclusion as opposed to integration.
It gave me a foundation of confidence that what I was doing was based on best practise in pedagogical strategies and methodologies coming from experts in the field.
However, all this expert input was not as beneficial as what I gained from my fellow students. On any postgraduate course of study in special education, you will be surrounded by like-minded people.
Anyone taking on a qualification like this is usually working in the area currently or at the very least has worked in it in the past and the wealth of experience all bring to the table is truly the ‘wisdom of crowds’.
Teachers, SNAs, health professionals, and those working in the care system are just some of those who take on the post-grad in Inclusive and Special Education and they are the people you will meet and learn from.
The connections you make on the course can also open up new opportunities and through links from fellow students, I have ended up working part-time in the adult education sphere as a tutor and lecturer.
A post-grad in this field may appear a daunting proposition but having come out the other side it will at the very least, build your skills and knowledge, enhance your current practice, make you a more inclusive practitioner and could even become the beginning of a pathway to a new area of your career.
About the Author
I am a committed educator with fifteen years of experience working in a DEIS primary school in Dublin 12. In my time there I have been placed in a variety of roles including class teacher, Special Education Teacher, Home School Community Liaison (HCSL) and Deputy Principal. Working in a DEIS school is hugely rewarding even if it has its own challenges. Among the many benefits are that the staff are exposed to professional development in a wide variety of areas such as emotional regulation, behaviour strategies and a huge scope of literacy and numeracy programmes beyond the reach of traditional primary education.
In particular, my time as an HSCL meant I worked much more with parents and the wider school community and through this, I gained true insight into the importance of parental involvement in children’s education. Through this role, I developed a greater interest in adult education.
In 2021/22 I completed a Post Graduate qualification in Inclusive and Special Education and was exposed to a huge amount of knowledge and skills both from my lecturers and tutors and my fellow adult learners. It brought a completely new perspective to my work and for the current school year, I took a career break from my school to explore that further.
I am now enjoying increasing my exposure to different areas in the field of education and am currently working as a lecturer/tutor with Portobello Institute.
Read Colm's Full Profile Here.
Get in Contact
If you are interested in any of our SNA or Inclusive Education and SEN courses or have any questions you can book a consultation call with our expert advisor Jennifer Matteazzi here, email email@example.com or call 01 892 0031. Visit our SNA & Inclusive Education Department here.