Ever wondered what it is like to be a Special Educational Needs Coordinator? Join Penny Whelan as she gives us a snapshot of her role.

6.30am: My alarm goes off and I’m already thinking about how much I need to do today. Feel a bit stressed about it all (must remember to breathe).

8am: Drop my son off at nursery on the way to school – still thinking about that to-do list. Ring my mum on the way into school to touch base, as we do every morning. She’s my therapist for the day.

8.25am: Check my diary to see what’s on today. I love my planner from @Headteacherchat. Helps to keep me organised!

8.30am: Meet with a parent about their child and discuss the concerns they have about their educational needs. We agree that we need to make a referral to the local paediatric service to investigate possible ASD. Add the referral to my list.

8.45am: Catch up with staff as the children come in and give out forms that need to be filled in for referrals. Feel guilty and apologise to staff for giving them more paperwork and explain that I’ve tried to do as much of it for them as possible before handing it over, but when it’s a child that you’ve not taught or met before, it must be the teacher who fills it in. After all, who knows them better (apart from their parents)?

9am: Plan for tonight’s staff meeting which is introducing ‘Clicker’ to the staff as a brilliant tool for writing for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities. Wonder if I have made myself familiar enough with it to show them? It’s new to me too, so I’ve got to get it right to show the potential for our pupils. Print off help booklets from the Clicker website and make notes about anything specific I need to mention.

9.30am(ish): Get called into a class in a year group as the 1:1 for a lovely child with an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP). His usual 1:1 is sick, so they desperately need support. Work as his support in maths. (To-do list is abandoned for the morning).

10.15am: Break time for the lower school and support 1:1 on the playground. Nearly hit in the head by a football several times. 1:1 child refuses to talk to me but plays with friends. Enjoying being outside in the sunshine for 15 minutes (despite dodging footballs).

10.30am: Work with the year group in Literacy as a 1:1 and enjoy myself. To-do list still abandoned but feeling better about it and making the most of getting to know the child, feeling like I’m better placed to understand their needs now. Another TA comes to offer help and replace me, but she has phonics interventions to do and I’m happy where I am – obviously, I thank her very much for offering!

12pm: Lunchtime for the year group. Staff accompany children to the hall, and I sneak off to make a phone call to the Speech and Language Therapist who wants to organise appointments for a few children.

12.10pm: Go into the hall to find my 1:1 who needs support at lunch time. Other staff are also doing a fantastic job of supporting.

12.30pm: Lunchtime for me – hooray! On the way to the staffroom, a year 4 child stops to ask me if we can make and sell cookies for the homeless. Heart melts! Of course we can! I add it to the list to work out when we can possibly do this.

12.35pm: Make it to the staffroom. Catch up with staff and make time to connect, laugh and breathe! 1pm. Back to my office. Not before being warned by a member of staff that a pigeon has flown up the corridor and found its way into my office! It’s been caught (incredibly glad I wasn’t in there!) by the site manager and released without injury. Feathers all over the floor, but I’m laughing.

1.15pm: Most of the afternoon passes in a blur. Update SEND register based on new paperwork that arrives in the post, file said paperwork, address 36 emails that all require a response, book visits into school diary for speech and language and other agencies to come to see children, complete three referrals to various agencies and accompanying paperwork which is scanned and emailed off and filed. Tick some things off in my planner. Hooray!

3.20pm: Head into the hall to set up tables, chairs and the laptop for the staff meeting. Can’t get the large screen to show my computer screen – colleague to the rescue!

3.45pm: Staff meeting attended by all teachers and most support staff. Show them ‘Clicker’, discuss the children we could use it for and then support as they play with it and explore.

4.45pm: Pack away the hall and eventually leave school to go home.

5.15pm: Get home! Make dinner, play with trains and my son, put him to bed and prep everything for the next day.

8pm: Answer another three emails, but then decide that enough is enough and, if I’m going to tackle my list tomorrow, I need to switch off now. Goodnight!

The next day…. Get up and do it all over again!


  • Penny Whelan

    Penny Whelan is a primary assistant headteacher and SENCO in Bedfordshire. Penny works part-time and is also an EAL coordinator, a specialist leader of Education, Emotional Literacy Support Assistant and Coach. Penny is the operations manager for the Schools Linking Network in her Local Authority. She is passionate about SEND, inclusion, diversity and community cohesion.
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