The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Gareth D Morewood

Planning, preparation and evaluation: a summer to-do list for SENCOs

As we enter what's likely to be the busiest term of the year, now is a good time to identify our priorities for giving all pupils the best possible start in September.

In these long summer days, there is often a feeling that the time we need seems to miraculously appear! Most (if not all) SENCOs will tell you that summer is the busiest term of their year, as it’s the time to:

  • liaise with their exams officer to ensure all the exams go well
  • plan transitions for September with parents and carers
  • attend Year 5 transition reviews
  • reflect on budget concerns, consider individual needs and plan staffing accordingly.

Knowing how hectic the summer term can be, now is a good time to remind busy SENCO of their highest priorities. Below is some advice that will hopefully take some of the pressure off!

Transition

Our recent look at what we can learn from existing research into transition underscored the old mantra: good practice for SEND is good practice for all!

A mix of whole-school events and bespoke visits for students with SEND is crucial, and pupils whose transitions are successful typically make more friends, develop higher levels of self-esteem and become more confident at secondary school.

Pupils whose transitions are successful typically make more friends, develop higher levels of self-esteem and become more confident at secondary school

From our current practice at Priestnall, I’ve picked out a few good examples.

  • We hold additional small-group induction mornings, in which students use a map of the school and find clues at different places marked on the map.
  • Students can match pictures of their future teaching staff with the classrooms they teach in; having an open policy for this at school helps reduce additional anxiety.
  • We have an additional coffee morning where new parents, carers and young people can hear from our current cohort about what it has been like this year – and dispel some myths!
  • We allow students to learn the routine for the first day in advance, and provide visual support for home to refer to during the last week of the holidays helps with the normal first-day nerves.

In a previous post, I explained the purpose and practicalities of Year 6 transition mornings at Priestnall in greater depth.

Recruitment

At this time of year, support staff are likely to be undertaking teacher training, further academic work or training to become SALTs etc. As a result, you may be looking at recruitment in order to ensure good quality staff are in place for September.

In the meantime, you might also look at staff induction before the end of the academic year.

Before starting a long and often expensive recruitment process, it’s important to assess the requirements of your vacant roles against existing staff skill-sets, requirements from EHCPs and the rapidly changing educational landscape.

You can read a little more about our recruitment processes prior to any formal advertisement going to press. Also consider social media and other ways of advertising locally, such as newspaper adverts or posters.

Planning for September

I’m sure we at Priestnall are not alone in having made significant curriculum and staffing adjustments as a result of budgetary constraints, curriculum changes or staff simply moving on.

Although it may be impossible to set the school-wide timetable in the old way, SENCOs should still be able to give their input and hold discussions with colleagues about teaching and pastoral groups.

It’s always a very difficult balancing act trying to establish the timetable under a lot of additional external pressures. However, as the SENCO you probably know the students and families you work with better than most, and sometimes an awkward structure can affect young people throughout the year.

Having a discussion with them now will pay dividends after September.

I always feel that the SENCO should be able to have some time on the first day to ensure all staff are aware of key students and their needs

I don’t pretend to think I could undertake such a task, however there is some excellent advice should you want a little more ‘ammunition’ when approaching these conversations!

It is also important to consider how the first days back after the summer break take shape, I always feel that the SENCO should be able to have some time on the first day to ensure all staff are aware of key students and their needs.

Allocate some Inset time, even if only 15-20 minutes, to reminding staff where key documents are and who the important people are with whom they will be working.

Time to reflect

Last but by no means least: take time to reflect on the year that has passed. Talk to some parents, carers and young people to find out what they felt went well and what they could change next year to improve things.

Rarely do we get time to ‘take stock’ and reflect, but at this time of year it's important to schedule some time to think, discuss and plan. 

When the end of term arrives, I know I won’t be in a good place to follow my own advice, and I most certainly need the summer to recuperate!

Month-by-month implementation

Optimus members can download and adapt our up-to-date SEND year planner, will help you stay on top of your priorities and meet all statutory requirements for the 2017-2018 academic year.

In summary, SENCOs should ensure they can meet their statutory requirements for students in September, and develop a whole-school approach to SEND. Engaging early and regularly with families is the success to a positive relationship, and successful co-production in the years ahead.

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