SENCO as Leader: Strategic Ideas (Simon Ripley and the University of Sunderland Group)
The staff need to be collaborative in negotiating change for it to be effective and for it to have lasting impact. The benefits are staff will feel listened to and are more likely to contribute in the future. Integrity and honesty are crucial components of leadership. Consider how you present ideas to staff, handouts can be misplaced, recycled or not valued, emails deleted. Consider putting key support changes on cards to carry, or on the reverse of lanyards, other ideas could be phone numbers for crisis services for children who may need them, so they are at hand.
To introduce new systems in schools, they all need to start on the same day at the same time. All staff need to provide this consistently for ideas to be implemented effectively, the challenge is that not all colleagues will be invested at all times. This follows collaboration, with clear direction and pupil voice embedded in ideas. Have a rationale for why you are introducing something, this is more likely to get staff to be invested. If all staff do not follow systems they are confusing for children – for example some staff letting a child listen to music through headphones as it regulates them, some staff do this but others don’t.
Evaluation of system and process changes are fundamental to understand effectiveness of what has been implemented. What evaluation systems do you have in place in your context? This can also be useful for evidence for your impact as SENCO. If you have implemented a new system to monitor attendance and through evaluation you can see it increases this should be recorded to present to external agencies. It shows you are monitoring systems and processes and this can be filtered down to progress for children with SEND who have risks of low attendance due to learning needs, risk of exclusion or school refusal.
The use of coaching and mentoring as a system is a useful way of supporting colleagues and building learning and teaching skills, to be discussed in the next session. SENCOs can feel isolated, it is important to find sources of support so you know you are not alone. Sometimes when leadership changes many times and schools are in difficult circumstances then support can diminish be that admin or emotional support. It seems that support can be agreed and then taken away, this leaves SENCOs exposed to increased pressures. Are there pockets of protected time you can have agreed to allow for strategic rather than operational leadership. There is also the issue of who picks up duties to support SENCO, do this have the skills, knowledge and understanding?