SENCO – Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator. It sounds simple – I co-ordinate “things” for children with Special Educational Needs. How do we know if children actually have Special Educational Needs (SEN) (as compared to being in the bottom group for everything or because parents say they must have)? That’s easy! In 2014 the government wrote a Code of Practice (officially -Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years.
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Statutory guidance for organisations who work with and support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities) where it defines exactly how you know if a child has SEN.
” A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.” (1)
If that doesn’t make it clear enough, it goes on
” A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
• has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
• has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions” (1)
So we’re all absolutely clear as to who has SEN.
My job, therefore, is just to co-ordinate the provision that the child receives – I obviously don’t have to deliver the teaching to the children with SEN and I’m not even responsible for their progress as
” Teachers are responsible and accountable for the progress and development of the pupils in their class, including where pupils access support from teaching assistants or specialist staff.” (1)
Sometimes we all agree that a child has SEN and that we are making significant adjustments e.g. we allocate an adult to help them, we provide special pencil grips or extra lessons. The school has to provide (currently) the first £6000 worth of extra support for every child with SEN, for the majority of children with SEN this is generally fine. Sometimes though a child can, in the opinion of the school, only access the curriculum with substantially more support – this costs money. It is alright – there is a system in place, you can apply for an Education Health Care Assessment leading which possibly leads to an Education Health Care Plan which will top up your funding.
Education Health Care Plans (EHCP) are applied for and (in the Local Authority where I live) eventually decided upon by an SEN panel; this panel consists of an Educational Psychologist, the head of SEN and other SENCOs who are presenting EHCP requests. These EHC assessments take a reasonably long time to do and involve a lot of paperwork and professionals seeing the child. Just because this has been done it does not necessarily follow that the child will get an EHCP and funding to the level that you have been providing in school.
So regardless of the result and the money available what do you do? It’s easy – our friend the Code of Practice says
“Every school……… must:
- use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN
- ensure that children and young people with SEN engage in the activities of the school alongside pupils who do not have SEN” (1)
So now we know!
(1) DFE (2014) Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years London: DfE