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A lot has happened in the last 12 months, not to mention a couple of lockdowns!

After finding that being a SENCO can be quite a lonely experience, Abigail Hawkins set up a Facebook group to support others.

During Covid with all its uncertainty, the group blossomed- she looks back on the last year.

Abigail FB Senco

When we locked down on the 23rd March 2020, it became quickly apparent that the lonely role of the SENCO was about to become even more complicated.  With guidance changing on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis and no one being entirely sure how to interpret it, there were many questions flying…but nowhere to ask!

As the world took to its computer screens in order to hold team meetings, SENCOs found themselves hunting for a support network.

SENsible SENCO is a Facebook support group for SENCOs.  It had been active for about 9 months before the lockdown.  Anyone who knows me will also know the reason why I had developed it in the first place.  At one point in my career, I had reached a very dark place and there was nowhere to turn to.  Social media was my outlet – there are groups for just about anything you want to explore – be careful with your choices!  SENsible SENCO is a group where SENCOs can vent against the frustrations of the system, ask for advice and share successes with others who ‘get it’.  It’s not a business, that’s my SENDCOSolutions site, I don’t allow advertising and any self-promotion gets quickly removed.  It is a space to ask questions and get answers.

On 23rd March 2020 SENsible SENCO had 550 members… Today (23rd March 2021) it stands at 5426, nearly ten times as many, and over 98% of those members are active!  In the last 12 months, we have answered over 4000 questions, made 38300 comments or responses and sent virtual hugs (or other emojis) nearly 50000 times!

We used the Facebook mentoring scheme with over 300 SENCOs to create supportive buddies or pairs and uploaded hundreds of files.  If anyone has ever used the Facebook filing system, you’ll know why we then created a Google Drive for free access to a more organised system with over 1500 members and contributors.

In the autumn term, I had to ask for volunteers to help me administer the account.  Going from 2 or 3 posts a day, all of which used to get a response from me, to between 20 and 50 a day meant I needed help.  Membership went from approving 5 or 6 new applications a day to adding over 100 at its peak.  Lots of people assume there is money involved in Facebook groups – there isn’t!  Everyone who runs a group is doing it voluntarily and without my fabulous little team, we wouldn’t be able to keep on top of ensuring everyone is safe and supported.

Over the more recent lockdown, we launched our virtual network meeting – called Wine and Whine, a tongue-in-cheek reference to how we are often seen.  Running the first Wednesday of the month at 7pm, we had to add a second more sociable version on the third Saturday at 11am to enable everyone who wanted to attend to join us.

Through the first lockdown, we discovered that SENCOs just didn’t have time to stay on top of every piece of guidance that came out.  So, the SEN Roundup was developed and distributed weekly on the group; all the links to what they might need along with a precis of any change.

The group has had fun participating in prize draws, the most recent for an electronic reading pen, and being first in the queue for access to new products and programs being released.

I’m the proud founder of the group of most fabulous individuals you could ever hope to meet who provide amazing support for their pupils and colleagues in their schools and then hop into the group to offer hugs and advice there too.

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The author

Abigail has been a classroom teacher and SENDCO for more than 20 years. During that time she has worked in a wide variety of settings and across age ranges 2 to adult. Whilst originally training as a science teacher, she spent the majority of her career teaching children with weak literacy skills and special educational needs. Other hats worn across the years include Co-ordinator for PP, EAL, LAC, Family Learning, Assessment, (a whole variety of subjects including Science, Literacy, DT, IT, History, Music and Maths), Designated Safeguarding Lead, Chief First-Aider and NQT Mentor. The only mainstream subject to have not appeared on her timetable (within primary, secondary or FE) at some point has been...nope, there wasn’t one, although SLT regretted asking her to teach art to 9-year-olds! Abigail loves working with schools and families around supporting young people with special educational needs and has published several books.

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