Country information for UK (Northern Ireland) - Teacher education for inclusive education

Initial teacher education

In Northern Ireland, Initial Teacher Education encompasses undergraduate (Bachelor of Education – BEd) and postgraduate (Postgraduate Certificate in Education – PGCE) courses in higher education that lead to a qualification to teach. All teachers are required to register with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI).

Initial Teacher Education in Northern Ireland is based on the reflective and activist practitioner model. It centres on the development of a framework of teaching competences, as outlined by the GTCNI publication Teaching: The Reflective Profession. The competences highlight the attributes, skills and knowledge that teachers require within the context of a model of continuous professional development. The competences are not discrete or ‘complete’ at any stage of the teacher’s professional life. Rather, they are dynamic, initially supporting, but also evolving out of, the teacher’s particular professional context at given stages in their career.

The GTCNI competence statements specifically reference the need for teachers to meet the needs of all learners in their care, including those who may have particular or special needs. The competences state that teachers need to:

  • know and understand their responsibilities under the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice and know the features of the most common special needs and appropriate strategies to address these;
  • plan and evaluate lessons that enable all pupils, including those with SEN, to meet learning objectives/outcomes/intentions, showing high expectations and an awareness of potential areas of difficulty;
  • employ strategies that motivate and meet the needs of all pupils, including those with special and additional needs and for those not learning in their first language.

Teacher professional learning

The Department of Education’s (DE) Teacher Professional Learning Strategy, Learning Leaders, was published in March 2016. It sets out DE’s vision for teacher professional learning (for the next decade) as ‘Every teacher is a learning leader, accomplished in working collaboratively with all partners in the interests of children and young people’ (p. 4). Five key areas are established, underpinned by 15 policy commitments. The five key areas are:

  • The development of a Teacher Professional Learning Framework
  • Development and Dissemination of Good Practice
  • Building Professional Learning Communities
  • Building Leadership Capacity
  • Stakeholder Engagement

The strategy aims to empower the teaching profession to strengthen its professionalism and expertise to meet the challenging educational needs of young people in the 21st century.  

Continuous professional development

Under the Review of SEN and Inclusion, two capacity-building pilots are currently operating:

  • one in early years settings to increase providers’ capacity to identify, assess and make provision for children with SEN in their immediate pre-primary year;
  • one in school settings to increase the capacity of teachers and SEN Co‑ordinators to appropriately use and interpret educational assessment resources, to better identify and meet the needs of learners with SEN.

DE is funding a further SEN literacy continuous professional development programme. The programme is run by Stranmillis University College and St Mary’s University College and is offered to all primary schools over a three-year period. This also falls within the parameters of the Review of SEN and Inclusion and offers specialist training to master’s degree level, accredited by the British Dyslexia Association.



Last updated 18/02/2020

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