Making the decision to move schools and change roles can be both challenging and rewarding. Becoming a Deputy Head and SENDco with class responsibility requires a lot of ball juggling and the need for an efficient and organised approach to paperwork, which can be the biggest challenge for some.
It is an exciting time to be a SENDco. The new SEND Code of Practice brought with it a positive culture shift and made the implicit explicit – that all children deserve high-quality first teaching and high aspirations so that they achieve their potential. In some schools this is normal practice, in others, it is a gradual change from children with SEN being taught in small groups or 1:1, outside the classroom, with teaching assistants, sometimes with ad hoc activities.
The new code makes it very clear that interventions do not compensate for a lack of high-quality teaching or high aspirations and thus makes class teachers more accountable for SEN provision. It sets out the principle of a graduated response, which asks whether children need support that is additional to, or different from, that which is part of the usual, differentiated curriculum. Children needing additional support should be included in the school’s SEN register, but SENDcos need to consider whether children really have special educational needs, or whether they are falling behind because they have missed out on first high-quality teaching – from a teacher.
Good practice in a primary school should be based upon a rigorous ‘assess, plan, do and review’ model. It is essentially a simple approach: monitor progress through tracking data and pupil progress meetings; find out what the teacher has put in place to narrow the gap; follow the graduated response for children who have made less than expected progress and match the intervention to need.
Trying to coordinate interventions can be difficult unless you are a full-time SENDco, so it could be better to reduce it to those few proven quality interventions that you know will have an impact. Assessing children before they access the intervention, then again afterwards, can show how effective it is and whether it is value for money. Of course, there is another aspect to this, one that can cause confusion. Yes, children all deserve high-quality teaching, from the most qualified person, but with certain interventions, it is likely to be a TA who delivers this. It is therefore the school’s responsibility to ensure TAs are appropriately trained and to carefully monitor the impact. The ‘assess, plan, do and review’ model works here too: observe practice and gather evidence (don’t discount children’s views), measure impact, feedback to TAs and discuss CPD needs/requests, and put these in place then review.
Expectations of teaching assistants have increased considerably over the years and it can be difficult to keep asking more from those who already go above and beyond. Some schools have gradually shifted away from TAs being attached to specific classes to a model whereby they are trained to deliver quality interventions and are given appropriate time to prepare and review. The time has come where parent volunteers provide the ‘cutting and sticking’ support, leaving TAs to support teaching and learning.
There are many books and articles that support new SENDcos with best practice. Here are some simple tips in the meantime:
- Know the children on your SEN register – you may not know them as a class teacher would, but talk to them when you can. Know their needs, what inspires them, what progress they are making and what interventions have been successful. Be aware of the resources available to support their particular needs – and draw on them.
- Know your interventions monitor the impact and thus the value of them. Replace if they don’t do what they say they will do. Observe practice regularly.
- Know the external support that is available to your school. Use it!
- Know the data – not off the top of your head, but monitor it carefully. A child who has not made academic progress, but has made huge steps with personal, social, and emotional skills may need to have a case study written that accounts for this.
- Know your TAs think about their strengths and deploy them accordingly whenever possible. Provide CPD according to the needs of children and staff.
- Keep your key paperwork in one handy folder that you can pass over to governors, OfSTED, or any other visitors who come calling
Sheli @SheliBB is the SENDco and Deputy Head at East Harling Primary School, and self-confessed computing geek. As a relatively new SENDco, she has blogged about her journey on her blog Carry on Learning at carryonlearning.blogspot.co.uk