The SEND Code of Practice (DfE, 2015) requires governing bodies of maintained mainstream schools and the proprietors of academy schools (including free schools) to ensure that there is a qualified teacher designated as Special Educational Needs (SEN) coordinator (SENCo) for the school. The National award for SEN co-ordination is a mandatory award that must be accredited by universities, and individual courses may be chosen by local authorities or schools. The courses are designed to support professional development and help improve practice (NCTL, 2015). Wedell (2014) The most recent SEND code of practice (DfE, 2015) increased the emphasis that previous versions placed on class teachers’ responsibility for responding to the diversity of children’s learning needs, through quality first teaching.
Done et al. (2016) discusses the shift in the SENCo role over recent years and suggests that instead of functioning as an ‘in-house expert’ to whom responsibility for inclusion could be delegated, the SENCo is now more likely to be engaged in whole-school organisational-level initiatives including, performance evaluation, the identification and leading of continuing professional development (CPD) requirements. The challenge with this is that the SEND code of practice (DfE, 2015a) states that the SENCo ‘should’ not ‘must’ be on the Senior Leadership Team. In light of this many SENCos remain unable to be a key leader in terms of co-ordinating provision and practice. It is evident from research that the role of the SENCo is challenging, stressful and demanding due to limited time to do the role.
The SENCO role includes the following duties
- Overseeing the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy
- Coordinating provision for children with SEN
- Liaising with the relevant designated teacher where a looked after pupil has SEN
- Advising on a graduated approach to providing SEN support
- Advising on the deployment of the school’s delegated budget and other resources to meet children’s needs effectively; Liaising with caregivers of children with SEN
- Liaising with other schools, educational psychologists, health and social care professionals, and independent or voluntary bodies
- Being a key point of contact with external agencies, especially the LA and LA support services
- Liaising with potential next providers of education to ensure a young person and their caregivers are informed about options and a smooth transition is planned
- Working with the head teacher and school governors to ensure that the school meets its responsibilities under the Equality Act (2010) with regard to reasonable adjustments and access arrangements
- Ensuring that the school or maintained nursery keeps the records of all children with SEN up to date
DfE and DoH (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years. London: DfE.
Statutory duties (SENCO) Simon Ripley
To meet EHC plan deadlines
To carry out annual reviews – they must happen within 12 months of each other, regardless of transition points.