SENCO – Special Educational Needs Coordinator. Coordinator, not teacher of every child within the school who has special educational needs.
It is a tricky one. What exactly am I coordinating? The children arrive with their special educational needs, sometimes it is obvious immediately, sometimes it takes a few years before the difficulty becomes apparent. Not every child who is working at a below average level has special educational needs (I’m sure I’ve talked about ‘all children being above average’ before). The needs themselves don’t need coordinating and coordinating children, at times, feels like herding sheep!
So it is decided that a child, we’ll call him Tommy, has a special educational need. According to the new Code of Practice – ‘6.2 (Schools will) Use their best endeavours to ensure the child with SEN gets the support they need’ and ‘6.19 The first response …. should be quality first teaching targeted at their areas of weakness.’
So as a school has identified Tommy’s need and now must offer him the support he needs and use quality first teaching aimed at his weakness to help him progress. As a SENCO I have probably been involved in establishing that he has a special educational need and is not just disruptive or a slow learner. I am then involved in writing an IEP – I set the targets in conjunction with the class teacher, I tend to offer suggestions and steps as to how these targets can be achieved. I will talk to the parents and give them a copy of the IEP. Should I also provide all of the resources – reward charts, handwriting guides, word banks, flash cards? How much is it reasonable for me as SENCO to provide for him? Who decides?
As a class teacher I used to look for my own resources, I liked doing this bit. I happily made my own word banks – I knew which words were likely to be needed for a specific lesson. I willingly made reward charts – I knew the children and their interests and so what type of chart was likely to motivate them. As a SENCO I presumed most teachers would work in the same way as I had – is this a reasonable assumption?
I know that Tommy will need some extra interventions and as SENCO I am line manager to the TAs who run these interventions. I can tell them that he needs the support that they can offer, I can check their timesheets to ensure that Tommy receives his intervention. I can check his progress and see whether it appears to be helping and suggest alternatives or contact outside agencies if not. This, to me seems, reasonable.
If Tommy’s needs are ‘severe, complex and long term’ and the school is putting in more than £6000 worth of support then I can do the paperwork to start the EHC plan assessment. If this is approved I will attend the relevant meetings and panel hearings, definitely part of my role.
It is tricky and I don’t think that there is a definitive answer, it will vary from school to school, teacher to teacher and even child to child. I would hate not to do enough to support the children but I would also not like to be thought of as interfering. It’s a fine line to know exactly how much a SENCO should do.