As a SENCo in a mainstream school you occupy a unique role. Thanks to Covid, the increasing prevalence of SEND and diminishing resources at your disposal, this role is getting more complex. As Liz Murray recently wrote, SENCo are generalists, required to respond and adapt to a wide range of needs.
Herein lies much of the complexity. It sometimes feels that SENCos should be a jack of all trades AND a master of every aspect of SEND. You deliver as a:
- Leader: As a member of the school’s SLT with responsibilities for school standards, resource management and accountability
- Coordinator: Working with young people, their families, specialists and outside agencies and drawing together the many different strands of support
- Specialist: Supporting colleagues with expertise on primary areas of need, identification and assessment, as well as an effective graduated approach.
Three quarters of respondents to the 2020 SENCo workload survey said schools had struggled to provide support virtually, but there is also a renewed appreciation for teachers and schools. Undoubtedly, SENCos are amongst the unsung heroes for keeping their young people with SEND supported throughout covid restrictions.
SENCos make a difference.
It’s time to show appreciation for SENCOs and celebrate their contribution to the education of disadvantaged young people. One way is to ensure they have the best possible high quality professional development.
As recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins argued recently, the ongoing professional development of teachers is “undoubtedly the best catch up” strategy we have to respond to Covid and associated learning loss.
I’m a governor and trustee, and see how the pressures SENCos face work out in the Boardroom. There is often a responsiveness to provision which obscures true strategic intent and planning.
It is always right that we put the requirements of our young people, and their families, first. However, that can come at the cost of thinking through how to adapt provision to wider changes in the settings cohort and the accompanying planning, budgets and resourcing that goes with it. We can only achieve this if we have knowledgeable and pragmatic leaders as SENCos.
Those with oversight or management of SENCos must be better at identifying opportunities for quality, evidence-based professional development. This will ultimately improve provision, teaching practice and outcomes for young people.
By investing in SENCos and making their professional development a priority for Covid recovery, we can strengthen the support offered to learners with SEND at this critical time and beyond.
Professional development with DYT
DYT is launching a new intensive CPD programme – Driving Inclusion: the Strategic SENCo. Designed around evidence-based practice, it aims to address the common challenges faced by SENCos in both primary and secondary settings. Participants will work their way through six modules expertly developed to enhance their leadership skills, SEND and inclusion knowledge and inspire them to create an action-plan for inclusion in their setting.
Chief Executive, DYT
Chris originally trained as an applied psychologist and has worked across the private, public and charitable sector for over 15 years. Has has particular expertise in special educational needs and disability, and organisational psychology. He is a primary Chair of Governors, Trustee of the Astrea Academy Trust, member of the literacy sub-committee of the Hastings Opportunity Area and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.