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Gareth D Morewood

Starting the new SENCO year in 2014 – don’t panic…

The end of the summer break always gives those who work in schools that ‘funny feeling’: sometimes excitement for new jobs or roles – and often anxiety and a sense of disbelief!

With the SEND reform becoming reality from 1st September, this year will be even more challenging for the SENCO. Don’t panic: the key here is from 1st September.

Initial concerns regarding implementation have been slowly dissolved with reforms coming in from September 1st 2014 until 1st April 2018, when all the new arrangements will be in force (Making the transition from statements to EHC plans offers more detail). 

Developing new systems and supporting new arrangements

While nobody is expecting instant overnight transformation on the 1st September and some of the changes are being phased in over time, there are some things which need to be done in September (with my emphasis added).

  • School leaders and governors should start exploring what the reforms mean for their school so that the SEN policy can be reviewed and refreshed in a co-production partnership with parents, carers, families and children and young people from September.
  • Schools should be thinking about how they will inform parents about the reforms, reassure them that their child will get the support they need and engage them in their child’s review.
  • One of the central pillars of the reforms is that classroom teachers play a pivotal role in reviewing a child SEN support so all schools should be looking at the training needs of all their staff to support the reforms.
  • All schools are required to publish an SEN information report which must include information for identifying, assessing and making provision for pupils with SEN and admission of disabled pupils. The requirements are set out in Schedule 1 – information to be included in the SEN information report. More on this in my next blog!
  • Schools must also cooperate with local authorities in the development and review of the Local Offer. And at the same time, school leaders should be engaging with their local authority in relation to the process for transferring from statements to EHC plans, delegated funding, joint commissioning and implications of personal budgets.
  • The SENCO must be a qualified teacher working at the school; where a newly appointed SENCO has not been the SENCO for a total period of more than 12 months, they must achieve a National Award in SEN coordination within three years of appointment.
  • The reforms place a duty on schools to make arrangements to support pupils with medical condition and schools must have regard to statutory guidance supporting pupils at school with medical conditions.

In short the terminology is very much about developing new systems and supporting the new arrangements from 1st September 2014 – this means SENCOs need not panic and can plan strategically how they will engage with parents/carers and support staff development as the changes happen over the next few years. To assist colleagues I’d recommend looking at the excellent factsheets and templates produced by Irwin Mitchell. We’re giving staff time to read a selection of factsheets on the INSET days at the start of term then feedback to others.

They will also be really useful for parents/carers as the new arrangements start to come into force.

Personal preparation

Finally, I think it’s important to consider personal preparation too. I wonder how many colleagues have experienced the ‘…only been back one day and feeling like never been away…’ syndrome? I have to admit it is difficult to get away from! However, looking after your own mental health and wellbeing should be an important part of the developing reforms and provision. For some suggested strategies, take a look at Teacher wellbeing: how to mentally prepare for a new school year.

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