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SENCOs: Take control of your workload!

After receiving a number of questions relating to workload in her Facebook group, Lynn decided to share some of her key suggestions to prevent burnout.

Lynn How SENCO workload

As we enter October, people are beginning to feel overwhelmed. Week 4 of the Autumn term is classic ‘drowning in work’ territory! It’s also classic illness territory. This is even more so if you are starting a new school due to all the new germs!

Hang in there! SENCOing can be notoriously lonely. This can be exacerbated if you’re not part of a teaching team.

Network where you can with other SENCOs to gain some much-needed solidarity and support.

Already this term, I have heard from SENCOs who:

  • Feel overwhelmed by their workload.
  • Feel misunderstood by their leadership team.
  • Feel that their academy chain is too prescriptive which adds to workload.
  • Feel that the consultant the school employed is now micro-managing for no good reason. 

This is not an exhaustive list.

There are many environmental factors at play in our work, but there are some things we can do for ourselves.

Things to do if you are struggling with workload:

💖Overwhelmed by the workload? Prioritise yourself! How much release time are you getting?
Check out the Bath Spa SENCO workload research. Do you have the suggested release time? 
💖Misunderstood by their leadership team? If your headteacher doesn’t understand (or try to understand) the pressures of your role, let them know that you are concerned about your wellbeing and that you may well burn out.

In extreme cases of poor workplace wellbeing or significant lack of release time, it may even be worth suggesting that you are going to have to look for another job because you need more time to undertake your role. You may not want to go anywhere, but leaving is always an option.
💖Can you defer your NASENCO (or even wait for the NPQ instead)?
💖Track your workload. Track your workload for a week and take it to your head for discussion.
💖Consider what is the teacher’s responsibility, and what is yours. Teachers are ultimately responsible for the progress of their pupils. Avoid writing IEPs or referral forms on your own. They can provide the bulk of the information, so support each other!
💖Ask for an assistant if you don’t have one. Even a couple of hours a week will help! You may need to work a bit at home but more than an hour a day is too much. 
💖Ultimately it’s just a job… Yes, it consumes most of your life but this all-consuming fast pace can only be temporary, it cannot be sustained long-term. Be a little more disagreeable. You can say no, and don’t say yes too fast! It’s fine to take some time to think before committing (make sure you negotiate extra release time as well!).
💖Reach out! Speak to a trusted colleague, friend or family member. I’m always happy to have a chat on Zoom with anyone who is struggling.

Remember – If you burn out, you’re not useful to anyone! I appreciate that in practice this is a bit of a nightmare to put sensible boundaries on!

For more support,

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The author

Lynn has been teaching for 20 years during which time she has been an Assistant Head and a Lead Mentor at a Teacher Training institution. Currently, she is working as a SENCO. She loves to write, including research, children‘s poetry and she has an MA in Education, NASENCO and NPQH. Lynn’s particular areas of interest are wellbeing (staff and pupil), SEND, children’s mental health, leadership, mentoring and coaching. She has written for Teacher Toolkit and has her own blog The site hosts a range of articles, resources and info graphics on all things SEMH - including educator wellbeing. She also has a coaching group with free monthly events: In her leisure time, she loves to spend time with her family and in the great outdoors walking and climbing. She is also a Scout climbing instructor and assessor. Her children are 10 and 6 and therefore she can appreciate first-hand the pressure children, educators and parents are under!

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