MA Education (Masters of Arts in Education)

Special Educational Needs specialism

Specialism leads: Professor Hazel Lawson and Dr Alison Black

Delivery: campus-based and/or blended-learning

Duration: one year full-time / two to five years part-time

‌This MA will enable you to explore concepts, approaches and issues relevant to the teaching and learning of students with special educational needs and disabilities. It is suitable for educators working with learners of all ages in specialist or mainstream education. One module includes practical school visits and a two-week experiential placement. A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is required as part of the entry requirements for this specialism. 

The syllabus may include:

  • Legislation and policy – SEN classifications; statutory assessments; implications of new legislation; international context

  • Types of need – including learning difficulties, behavioural difficulties, specific learning needs (e.g. dyslexia, numeracy, literacy), sensory and physical needs, communication difficulties

  • Theory and practice – current thinking in relation to need, intervention, diagnosis and assessment; models of learning; curriculum models; personalisation and differentiation; and design and evaluation of materials

  • Inclusive education – main concepts including integration, segregation, exclusion; international perspectives

  • Teaching and learning – appropriate approaches depending on need

  • Collaboration and support systems – including role of SENCO, peers, teaching assistants, support staff and pupil participation

  • Systems and management of SEN – models of provision; the role of special schools; national agencies; voluntary groups

  • Practical school experience – observations on practice, curriculum and teaching

You must take 180 credits in total to qualify with an MA qualification.

To qualify with the degree title MA Education: Special Educational Needs, you will need to take a minimum of 60 credits in the specialist area, usually chosen from the taught modules below, and write a dissertation on a topic relating to this specialism.  

Compulsory dissertation module

Specialism modules

CodeModulesDelivery  Credits 
EFPM270* SEN: Teaching and Learning Campus-based or blended learning   30
EFPM271* SEN: Provision and Practice Campus-based   30
EFPM272 International Perspectives: Inclusion, Disability and Diversity Campus-based   30
EFPM273 Critical Perspectives in Inclusive and Special Education Campus-based or blended learning   30
*These modules are compulsory on the full time route but are not compulsory on a part-time route.

Optional modules

In addition to the core modules, you will undertake 60 credits of optional modules from those below.

EFPM228 Arts in the Curriculum 30 Campus-based
EFPM265 The Arts & Educational Futures 30 Campus-based
EFPM272 International Perspectives: inclusion, disability & diversity 30 Campus-based
EFPM273 Critical Perspectives in Inclusive & Special Education 30 Campus-based or blended learning



Prior learning and experience

If you are registering for the MA Education, you may be able to accredit a maximum of 90 credits as a result of the learning you have achieved through your certificated qualifications and/or experience. Find out more.

Flexible design

If you don’t wish to complete a full Masters programme, you can study modules individually with the option of building up credits towards a postgraduate qualification. Visit the Professional Development in Education pages for more information. 

‌Delivery: campus-based and/or blended-learning

Duration: one year full-time / two to five years part-time

You can experience a variety of teaching approaches and learning methods, including: lectures; seminars; workshops; group work; placement; presentations; self-directed study; resource based and active learning; and use of the internet. Assessment methods from module to module and include portfolios, academic essays and research studies.

We take great care to provide you with support for your studies. All students are assigned a personal tutor and have access to module tutors via email and one-to-one tutorials. You will also have opportunities to sign up for weekly study skills sessions with the University's academic skills advisers. For students whose first language is not English, in-session support classes and individual tutorials are provided by INTO University of Exeter.

Research-led teaching

The specialism is aligned with the Centre for Special Educational Needs and Disability which promotes research and development in the fields of special needs and inclusive education. The Centre is a forum for examining perspectives and developing practices in this field.

The full time programme offers you the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in schools in England through a placement module (SEN: Provision and Practice); this experience is invaluable for a range of future professional roles such as teaching or advisory work. School visits and a two-week experiential placement are a compulsory element of the full-time programme. Reasonable travel costs for these will be met by the programme. Disclosure and Barring Service checks are required.

Dress code on school placements

If you are accepted on the programme, for the school experience placement element of the course, the University will make reasonable efforts to find a school within the usual placement area. You will be required to comply with the placement provider’s policies, which may include dress codes. For example, some schools may have a policy on students wearing the full veil. Should you wish to wear the full veil and it is not reasonably possible for the University to find a school in the usual placement area that will permit this, you may instead suggest a school within reasonable distance outside the usual area (for example, London or Birmingham) in order to fulfil the placement requirements. You will need to meet any additional costs incurred either by yourself (e.g. accommodation) or by the University (e.g. additional travelling costs to observe/supervise in the classroom). Any such placement would need to be approved by the University as suitable for the course being undertaken.

Some schools may be happy to accommodate a woman wearing a full veil outside the classroom, but not inside the classroom and, hence, should you wish to wear it at all times you may experience limited school experience opportunities.

Please contact the Graduate School of Education at any point before or after your application/acceptance to discuss any concerns or queries.

My recent studies in Special Educational Needs have made me aware of the need to see the world of education through a different lens. Hence I find myself adopting a more open-minded approach when dealing with students that face everyday challenges that are often complex and need sensitive and compassionate handling.

For my placement I chose to spend the time in a primary school.  From the perspective of being a secondary teacher I wanted to gain an insight into how children start to learn to gain skills in literacy and numeracy.  From an SEN perspective it was fascinating to observe the use of interventions in the school in order to provide support for children with a range of learning difficulties.

Another valuable observation was the importance of consistent communication and building strong relationships between all members of a school community and it has shown me the value of providing a firm foundation at the start of a child’s life.

It has also shown me that there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to looking at the areas surrounding special education and instead of arguing for one method and not another we should focus more closely at the positive things about learning taking place in school class rooms today.

Rachel Patten, Masters student