MA Education: Special Educational Needs

Specialism leadsDr Alison Black

Delivery: campus-based and/or blended-learning

Duration: one year full-time / three 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.

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

Students wishing to follow a specialism may have it named on your degree certificate, highlighting the specialist knowledge and experience you have in this field.

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 modules

Taught modules

EFPM270* SEN: Teaching and Learning 30 Campus-based or blended learning
EFPM271* SEN: Provision and Practice 30 Campus-based
EFPM272 International Perspectives: Inclusion, Disability and Diversity 30 Campus-based
EFPM273 Critical Perspectives in Inclusive and Special Education 30 Campus-based or blended learning
*These modules are compulsory on the full time programme.

Optional modules

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

EFPM228 Arts in the Curriculum 30 Campus-based
EFPM265 The Arts & Educational Futures 30 Campus-based
EFPM303 Creativity and Education Futures 30 Campus-based or distance learning
EFPM317 Educational Technology in Practice 30 Campus-based or distance 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.

Facilities and support

‌Our campus-based modules are taught at St Luke’s Campus, which offers you an excellent range of specialist facilities, including the UK’s largest Education library. Depending on the modules you choose, you may also be able to study part of your programme online.

You’ll be assigned a personal tutor and have access to module tutors via email and face-to-face tutorials. You’ll also have access to a range of support including lecture notes, presentations and reading materials through our online learning environment.

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.

"I have been a qualified teacher for 12 years mostly teaching within Early Years and Key Stage 1 classes. I have been working in the role of Special Educational Needs and Disability Coordinator (SENDCo) for around 8 years, during which time I have gained the National Award for SEN Coordination and trained as a reading recovery teacher. Initially the SENDCo role was alongside class teaching, firstly in a large city school in Exeter and then in a small village school. Currently the role is non class based and I work for the Ventrus Multi Academy Trust, based in 2 schools within the Trust in the SENDCo role. The SENDCo role is wide and varied in both schools and, as well as coordinating the provision for any child with additional needs, also includes parent support, coordination of lunchtimes, medical needs provision and much more besides. As a member of the Senior Leadership team I also have a role to play in wider strategic decisions. I am a Guest Speaker on  'The role of the SENDCo' on the  MA Education: SEN programme, presenting on and discussing how the role looks in practice." 

Helen Mewse, Ventrus Multi Academy Trust

This Masters is useful in aiding professional development and is applicable within a number of different professional fields. For me personally, this is Psychology.  Since leaving Exeter I have gained employment as an Assistant Educational Psychologist. The course gave me an in-depth knowledge of the education system; of the issues facing children and young people, as well as an awareness of policies and of the complex relationship between inclusion and SEN. I feel that this has been helpful in enabling me to secure my role as an Assistant Educational Psychologist as well as being useful in the delivery of my role every day.

Rebecca Louise Lumb, MA Education: Special Educational Needs

Lydia Knight, MA Education: Special Educational Needs

This course merged my two interests in disability studies and how best to support children with SENs in schools. The part-time course fitted in brilliantly with my commitments as a teaching assistant and was a great way of linking up the theory and practise involved in educating children with special needs or disabilities in schools.

Lydia Knight, MA Education: Special Educational Needs Read more

Find out about our professionally-orientated CPD (continuing professional development) MA Education: Special Educational Needs (SEN) Specialism. 


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