5 steps to a successful SENCo year
At this time of year there is the usual proliferation of back to school advice through blogs, articles and tweets. I thought it may be useful to consider what the SENCo year is all about and what our priorities should be in this ever changing and challenging world of education.
There are some really useful summaries of the SENCo role, for example this from Special Needs Jungle and a webinar from Natalie Packer from when the new SEND code of practice came into force. You can also find some of my own writing on my website, under publications. Indeed, reading back over my first book – The Role of the SENCo: an insider’s guide – although written five years ago, many key elements of the strategic nature of the role of the SENCo are still very much part of the current requirements.
‘A SENCo is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school's SEN policy. All mainstream schools must appoint a teacher to be their SENCo. The SENCo will co-ordinate additional support for pupils with SEN and liaise with their parents, teachers and other professionals who are involved with them.’
(www.specialeducationalneeds.co.uk/senco.html) I think taking time to reflect, plan and consider strategically is the part of the role we find so difficult to do. Time after time messages on the SENCo Forum, Optimus’ Ask the Experts service and on Twitter highlight lack of time being a key factor that makes strategic planning so tricky. Therefore, rather than jumping into the new academic year with blind positivity, consider my five-point plan for the SENCo year.
Step 1: set out your plan for the year
Consider key priorities for the year specific to your school/setting – most schools will require a formal development plan. Whatever your circumstance, outlining now, before the hectic new year gets underway, what you need to do and when by is a very useful exercise. Cross-referencing SENCo tasks with the whole school calendar is important – you don’t want to be trying to do Year 11 EHCP Reviews/Transfers when mock exams are on!
Step 2: map out EHCP reviews and transition meetings (including time for reports)
Map out EHCP Review meetings and report commissioning; this takes a lot longer than you think. Ensure you have clarity regarding timescales and deadlines. Talk to the young people throughout the process as part of usual working arrangements; don’t just pay lip service to the young people’s contribution right at the last moment.
Step 3: develop systematic and open communication with parents/carers
Ensure regular communication with parents/carers. Keeping parents/carers informed is important so misunderstandings and misinformation can be avoided. Why not establish a parent/carer working group and meet once a term/half-term?
Step 4: think about yourself
Think about your own training and development – as SENCo it is easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day work. You could undertake IPSEA’s Online Legal Training, for example, or look at a specific area for development.
Step 5: invest in working partnerships in school
Work in partnership with other staff including TAs, teachers, administrative and support staff – good working relationships are vital (see Successful Classroom Partnerships). Build in time for proper conversations and professional discussions, don’t rely on ad-hoc discussions throughout the year. Using Student Passports can help develop partnerships with teaching staff. Whatever your specific plans, remember being a SENCo is definitely a marathon, even though for most of the year we are running it like a sprint! The steps above are simply my priorities and suggestions – make sure yours are personal to you and your setting. I look forward to sharing more ideas and discussing successes and challenges throughout the new academic year in SENCology.