A SENCo, or Special Educational Needs Coordinator, aids the teaching and learning of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities within their primary or secondary school.
Every mainstream school will have one, as required by law, however SENCos must either be already qualified teachers or headteachers, or be actively working to become a qualified teacher; the requirement adds that you must also show that you have a reasonable likelihood of becoming qualified. Therefore, most SENCos work on their SEN (Special Educational Needs) role on top of their other school responsibilities.
To ensure a SENCo is up to the job, the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (2015) also requires all SENCos to gain the National SENCo Award within three years of taking the post.
The role is often challenging but highly rewarding, with responsibilities including:
- Identifying children with SEN
- Developing and overseeing the school’s SEN strategy
- Designing and delivering interventions to reduce the attainment gap
- Assessing and monitoring the progress of pupils with SEN
- Liaising alongside headteachers, class teachers and parents to support individual learning plans
- Providing support for teachers in developing effective teaching programmes and behavioural management techniques
- Managing and advising on the SEN budget
But what is it really like to be a SENCo?
Lucy Poynter SENDCo, DSL and Designated Teacher at Queen Mary's College shares what her role entails, and how it's changed over the last year or so in light of COVID-19:
"Resilience is key to my role; especially in COVID times. Over the course of the past year I have seen my day to day metamorphose into something I never could have predicted back in 2019. But this constantly evolving nature is what makes being a SENDCo the most rewarding role I have ever had.
Long gone are the days where overseeing and preparing annual reviews and deploying support staff were my bread and butter. Being a modern day SENDCo is all about a taking a creative approach to the support needs in young people, overcoming challenges in addressing mental health concerns as a result of the pandemic, and implementing particularly inventive approaches to solutions for our students. One of the biggest challenges we have faced this past year is balancing staff well-being and their ability to effectively support alongside social distancing guidance and remote learning.
After a morning of liaising with external agencies such as CAMHS and the local authority SEN service and setting up Specialist Advisory Teacher support for key students, I head down to the COVID testing centre to administer and process tests for our foundation students. Having a familiar face and a trusted adult when experiencing such an evasive procedure for these students is vitally important to them.
There are always challenges when upskilling teachers with strategies and techniques to implement with different learners, but building relationships with staff, students and families helps to ease this process and provide accurate and effective techniques to promote a fully inclusive environment.
In this regard, I like to operate an open door policy. Sometimes a two minute chat in between lessons is enough to alleviate fears, fix a problem or help someone back on track. This can sometimes be problematic when juggling online meetings to plan transition from another setting, or presenting your annual report to governors on the SEND provision, but I am a firm believer that taking the time early on to listen to a concern from a teacher, student or parent goes a long way to preventing problems from escalating and snowballing into something less manageable.
The gallery of student artwork from the mindfulness art group is a beautiful reminder of the various aspects of student well-being that need to be addressed in order to provide a broad base for student success. It isn’t all about the academics; young people need these opportunities to explore on an emotional level.
The link between mental health and undiagnosed or unaddressed SEND is clear taking a proactive approach here is critical for student success. Equipping our support staff in mental health first aid alongside ongoing SEND training has been a real asset and continuing to develop staff confidence in dealing with these situations is a top of my agenda.
My job is fun, weird, challenging, unpredictable and above all a labour of love but the most rewarding experience is seeing students grow and flourish over their time in education and enter the world with the confidence and determination to make a positive contribution to their community. To be happy, success and accomplished".
Whether you're an already established SENCO looking for best-practice to enhance your role, or a new SENCO wanting advice and guidance to succeed, you can learn more at this year's virtual National SEND Conference: