Helping you understand the children’s and young people’s workforce. This month: SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS CO-ORDINATORS
“I have been a SENCO for about seven years. It was diffi cult initially because I only have a few days a term to devote to SENCO, but now I have it streamlined and it suits me. We include autistic children at my school. They come in with a statement, they learn social skills and it’s nice to see them blossom – to see them playing with other children and initiating a conversation.”
Jenny Stephenson is a SENCO and assistant head teacher at Hill View Primary School, Gloucester
How many are there and how long have they been around?
They came into existence following the 1993 Education Act and its code of practice for special educational needs (SEN). Every school must have one, so there are at least 31,000; some undertake the whole of the SENCO roles and responsibilities, while others undertake some aspects as part of a team.
Where are they usually located and what other workers/ professionals do they work with?
SENCOs are usually teachers and are located in schools. Some are specialists in SEN, others are not; some are class teachers; some are senior managers or head teachers. They work closely with local education authorities (LEAs) and work with educational psychologists, communication advisory teachers and other professionals from education, health, social services and voluntary organisations, especially those concerned with disabilities.
What is their main role?
They are responsible for the strategic direction and development of SEN provision in the school. They support staff by helping them to identify their training and professional development needs relating to SEN. They are also responsible for the day-to-day operation of the SEN policy and for co-ordinating provision, in close collaboration with the head teacher and their colleagues. They advise and liaise with staff, parents and outside agencies to develop and review educational plans for individual children to make sure they are workable and appropriate. And they oversee records for SEN children to ensure they are kept up to date.
What are the main pieces of legislation that govern the work they do?
The main legislation is the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, which introduced new statutory duties on LEAs, schools and early education settings. It provided stronger
rights for children with SEN to be educated in mainstream schools, and gave LEAs new duties to provide advice and information for parents, together with a means of resolving disputes. It also introduced new rights for schools and nursery education providers to ask for a statutory assessment of a child and a new duty to tell parents when they make special education provision for their child. The Education Act 1996 requires state schools and LEAs to follow guidance on the statutory framework for inclusion of SEN children.
How and by whom is their work funded/commissioned?
Some elements of provision are funded from the school’s own budget and some are funded centrally by the LEA.
What is their average salary?
It is difficult to give an average figure because of the varying levels of seniority, but the range is from around £28,000 to £39,000.
What is the normal training/qualification route?
Because of the widely varied experience and expertise of SENCOs, training is provided at regional level by the LEA, or on an individually tailored basis through visits or by shadowing a colleague with relevant experience, with the help of the National Standards for SENCOs.
What is their biggest gripe?
The continual flow of new initiatives and the volume of paperwork.