With twenty years of classroom experience and a decade specialising in supporting pupils with SEND, Sheetal Smith has some information for new SENCOs.
As a SENCO, you play a central role in ensuring all learners feel included and have the opportunity to fulfil their true potential. The vision must be shared, with every leader; and with every teacher for a child-centred approach and transformational impact.
Understanding the role of a SENCO
As a SENCO, you are in a position to inspire inclusive practice to ensure the best possible outcomes for all children and young people. You should familiarise yourself with the Children and Families Act (2014) and the SEND Code of Practice (DfE and DoH, 2014).
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 for those with SEND in your setting. 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 assistants with problem-solving and advising on the effective implementation of support.
The four broad areas of need
The SEND Code of Practice outlines ‘four broad areas of need.’ The four broad areas are:
Communication and Interaction
Young people may often require support with speech production and understanding and expressing language. Sometimes, the way in which language is used in the classroom and around school may impact their learning.
Cognition and Learning
There are learning difficulties which may be moderate to severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties, and specific learning difficulties. Specific learning difficulties encompass a range of conditions: dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia or developmental coordination disorder.
Social, Emotional and Mental Health
Young people may become withdrawn or isolated, or display challenging behaviour. These behaviours may reflect a range of underlying issues such as anxiety or depression. Young children may also have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).
Sensory and/or physical
Young people may have vision impairment, hearing impairment, as well as physical disabilities.
How will you ensure every teacher is a teacher of SEND, so all our children can reach their full potential?
Establishing High Expectations
Every teacher needs to be very clear about their responsibilities under the Code of Practice. I would share some key sections from the Code, and then explore with the staff what this looks like in practice in this school.
This presents a great opportunity to establish clearly 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 they relate 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.
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 TAs should supplement, not replace, the class teacher.
Training and CPD
It is important to identify staff needs and put appropriate training in place
I would create an audit to find out what skills and knowledge the 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 skill levels so I would consider preparing a ‘menu’ of SEND training opportunities that staff can dip into over time. For example, some staff may want training on focusing on supporting children with literacy difficulties, whilst others choose to learn more about social communication difficulties.
Ensuring teachers are fully involved in planning, tracking and evaluating the impact of any additional support children are receiving.
Giving teachers and TAs time to explore specific programmes and how they could link these to their daily lessons.
Providing Advice and Information to Teachers
Short information booklets on topics such as speech and language, social communication and numeracy/ literacy difficulties can outline some of the common difficulties 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 toolkit they can use in their classrooms before seeking more specialist support.
The SEND Register
Ensuring the SEND register is up-to-date and shared with staff. Supporting teachers with SEND trackers and ensuring they have resources needed for particular children. Ensuring that staff have the required paperwork e.g. EHCPs for children so that they can make reasonable adjustments in order to meet the needs of all pupils with SEND.
The ‘graduated’ approach
Teacher assessment of pupil progress: 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 an unidentified SEND, then the SENDCo should be contacted.
To plan inclusive, high-quality teaching to meet the needs of individuals. Use information provided via Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or Pupil Passports. I would ensure that I am available to support teachers and TAs if in doubt.
The development of inclusive lessons to meet the needs of identified individuals – e.g., by using “dyslexia-friendly” strategies.
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 whereby the TA uses a code to inform the teacher how much support the pupil requires in order to complete a given task.
According to the University of Roehampton, some useful websites are: