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Are you a new SENCO?

With twenty years of classroom experience and a decade specialising in supporting pupils with SEND, Sheetal Smith has some information for new SENCOs.

Sheetal SENCO

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.

Key Legislation

  • The Children and Families Act (2014)
  • The SEND Regulations (2014)
  • The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years (2014)
  • The Equality Act (2010)
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
  • Working Together To Safeguard Children (2018)
  • Supporting Pupils at School With Medical Conditions (2017)

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
  • Cognition and Learning
  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health
  • Sensory and/or Physical

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.

Improving Communication

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

  • Ensuring that teachers are aware of 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. I would ensure that teachers are aware of their responsibilities.


Teacher responsibilities
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.


Teacher responsibilities
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.


Teacher responsibilities
The development of inclusive lessons to meet the needs of identified individuals – e.g., by using “dyslexia-friendly” strategies.


Teacher responsibilities
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:

Sheetal SENCO 1

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The author

Sheetal is an experienced education leader in the Primary education sector. She has worked in a variety of settings in London in different leadership roles and has completed programmes such as the National Qualification for Headship. She has been responsible for many curriculum areas including English, RSE and Assessment and is currently working as an Assistant Headteacher in a secondary school and is interested in becoming involved in Further Education. As well as promoting diversity, equality and mental health, she has always been invested and successful at driving school improvement, curriculum design and achieving the best pupil outcomes through Carol Dweck’s growth mindset approach. She now lives and teaches in Oxfordshire.

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