Key information and guidance for new SENCOs, from a SENCO with a decade’s experience specialising in SEND support, Sheetal Smith.

As a SENCO, you play a central role to ensure all learners feel included and have the opportunity to fulfil their true potential. The vision must be shared with all stakeholders for a child-centred approach and transformational impact. As a SENCO, you are able to inspire inclusive practice to ensure the best possible outcomes for all children and young people.

Understanding the role of a SENCO

As well as having a strategic overview of the policy and practices of your setting, time should be given to monitor the provision that is in place. You should also familiarise yourself with the Children and Families Act (2014) and the SEND Code of Practice (DfE and DoH, 2014).

According to the SEND Code of Practice, the class teacher should remain responsible for working with the child on a daily basis. The SENCO’s role is to support the class teacher and teaching assistant(s) with problem solving, and advise effective implementation of support.

 

How will you ensure every teacher is a teacher of SEND?

Establish high expectations

Every teacher needs to be very clear about their responsibilities under the SEND code of practice. I would recommend you share some key sections with school staff and then explore what this should look like in practice in your setting.

This presents a great opportunity to clarify that teachers have a responsibility to know about any additional support that children might be receiving, the progress they are making during such sessions, and how this relates to their day-to-day classroom teaching. It is also an ideal time to reinforce that all children should have fair and equal access to the class teacher during lessons.

Teaching Assistants (TAs) can make a fantastic contribution to children’s learning, but teachers must know that, ultimately, they are responsible for the progress of all children in their class.

Expert support from teaching assistants should be a supplement, not a replacement of the class teacher.

Provide effective training and CPD

It is important to identify staff needs and put appropriate training in place. I would recommend SENCOs create an audit to find out what skills and knowledge staff already have and build on this.

Teachers and TAs like to access the training that is most relevant to them based on their existing skills and the pupils they are supporting, so I would consider preparing a ‘menu’ of SEND training opportunities that staff can dip into. For example, some staff may want to focus on supporting children with literacy difficulties, whilst others may choose to learn more about social communication difficulties.

Monitor support

Ensure teachers are fully involved in planning, tracking and evaluating the impact of any additional support children are receiving. To aid in this, provide teachers and TAs time to explore specific programmes and how they could link these to their daily lessons.

Give additional advice and information

Short information booklets on topics such as speech and language, social communication, and numeracy or literacy difficulties can outline some of the common struggles that children might face, accompanied by a list of suggested strategies for teachers to try. This is a good way of giving teachers access to a simple toolkit they can use in their classrooms before seeking more specialist support.

Keep up to date

Ensure the SEND register is up to date and shared with staff. Support teachers with SEND trackers and ensure they have resources needed for particular children. Make sure that staff have the required paperwork (e.g., EHCPs for children) so they can make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of all pupils with SEND.

The ‘graduated approach’

The SEND Code of Practice (2015) advises schools to follow a graduated approach of ‘assess, plan, do, review’ in supporting all of their pupils with identified SEND. How might this work in practice?

Pyramid of three waves. Bottom of the pyramid (the foundation) reads, "Wave 1 - Quality first teaching." The next layer up reads, "Wave 2 - Targeted small group intervention." The top level reads, "Wave 3 - Specialist internal and external support."

Assess

Teacher assessment of pupil progress

Review – Are individuals making expected progress? And if not, why not? It could be useful for teachers/teaching assistants to liaise with colleagues. If there is a concern that the young person may have unidentified SEND, then the SENDCO should be contacted.

Plan

To plan inclusive, high-quality teaching to meet individuals’ needs

Use information provided via Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or Pupil Passports. I would ensure that, as a SENCO, I am available to support teachers and TAs to use this documentation to inform planning as needed.

Do

The development of inclusive lessons to meet the needs of identified individuals

For example, for a pupil with dyslexia, teachers could provide support such as  to ensure the learning is accessible to them.

Review

Provide feedback in books or through teacher-student conversations or school reports

TAs may also want to make notes in the students’ books. At our school, we are piloting a system where the TA uses a code to inform the teacher of how much support the pupil required in order to complete a given task. This can be useful for helping a teacher identify the pupil’s understanding and progress and how they could better support them in further lessons.

Author

  • Sheetal Smith

    Sheetal is an experienced senior leader in the primary education sector. Having had a range of leadership roles and completing a number of middle leadership programmes in inner-London schools, she is now at the beginning of her NPQH journey. She has been responsible for many curriculum areas, including English, RSE and assessment and is currently leading Key Stage Two.
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