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New SEND governors: getting to grips with the role

For school governors, autumn term is the time when you might be asked to step into a new role. In this blog I have pin-pointed what I think are the key areas SEND governors should cover in their first year.

It’s important to think carefully about what you want to achieve and not feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. When I took on the role, I wasted a year trying to work out what I should do rather than examining what was right under my nose. So, what is the role of governors and trustees in relation to SEND?

Supporting early & accurate identification

Governors are responsible for setting a strategy for pupils who are not making expected progress or who may have SEND. This strategy should reflect the existing practices and resources the setting has and how these could be improved over time. This information should be captured in your setting’s development plan or Trust strategy. Important details should also be captured in the school’s SEND information report.

To understand how well their school assesses and identifies SEND, governors should have an overview of the methods being used. This means understanding what exactly goes on before and leading up to a child being placed on the SEND register. To do this, governors need to understand what assessment data can tell them about the SEND cohort and their outcomes. They should also feel able to request further information about how it’s processed, for example from the SENCO.

Considering support from other specialists, such as Educational Psychologists, can provide further insight of any additional expertise supporting classroom teachers.

Planning adequate provision for pupils with SEND

Governors are responsible for ensuring their setting complies with its responsibilities under relevant legislation and guidance. This means ensuring the school meets its duties under the Equality Act (2010) and the SEND Code of Practice (2015). This will include making sure your setting has a qualified SENCO or a staff member working towards the recognised qualification.

As SEND governor you’ll need to know the key responsibilities of the SENCO and monitor the effectiveness of SEND provision. Don’t forget the responsibility for SEND provision sits with the whole board. Talk to your Chair and Clerk if you don’t feel there is adequate oversight.

Making sure support is delivered effectively

Governors are responsible for ensuring their setting does its best to meet the support needs of its pupils. In practice, this means a broad and balanced curriculum, opportunities to regularly engage with peers, and careers guidance. Together, all of this incorporates an explicit understanding of that individual’s starting point and requirements. Settings should also take into consideration medical conditions, those in care and other pupil characteristics including gender and ethnicity. 

Evaluating and reviewing impact

Governors should be confident in the advancement of the strategic objectives set out in their annual plan or strategy. Evaluation should reflect on existing practices and resource levels and determine to what extent these are adequately supporting pupil progress. When considering the effectiveness of provision, governors should think about the planning and delivery of support, and be confident in what impact this is having on pupils.

The key to success for governors is confidence in exploring and questioning evaluations and how their setting perform. Including information from external sources, such as specialist professionals, local authority or Trust colleagues, will be invaluable.

The SEND governor role can be the most challenging one on a board, not least because SEND provision touches on all aspects of school life. However, being the SEND governor also brings the greatest rewards; when you see pupils develop, gain confidence and make progress (however small those steps) you know you’re headed in the right direction.

To continue your learning as a SEND governor, join our upcoming webinar and download our free SEND Governance Review Guide. Find out more: driveryouthtrust.com/governance

Chris Rossiter

Chief Executive, DYT

Chris originally trained as an applied psychologist and has worked across the private, public and charitable sector for 15 years. He 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.

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