The National SENCo Workload Survey undertaken in October 2018, led to the publication of the report: It’s about time: The impact of SENCo workload on the professional and the school (Curran et al., 2018).
The same research team have since undertaken a review of the survey (October 2019) to explore what impact the report has had on SENDCos and, as a consequence, outcomes for children with additional needs. The new report: The time is now: Addressing missed opportunities for Special Educational Needs Support and Coordination in our schools (Curran et al., 2020) is summarised below.
- 96% of respondents believe that SENCos should have protected time to perform their roles, however only 17% of the SENCos surveyed had had their protected time increased in line with the recommendations of the previous report and 22% of SENCos had been allocated less time to facilitate the role in 2019/2020, than in comparison to the previous academic year, particularly in the secondary setting. 50% of SENCos stated that their allocated time in 2019/2020 had stayed the same as the previous academic year – but the way in which their time was being used had changed with many taking on additional duties (not SEND related) for example assistant head or safeguarding lead (due to budgetary constraints).
- Nearly three-quarters of SENCos continue to cite administration tasks as taking up the majority of their allocated SENCo time particularly the time to complete Education, Health and Care plan assessment requests, as well as the paperwork requirements from differing local authorities in terms of providing evidence for referrals to SEND teams and needs assessments. This was supported by many Headteachers requesting greater clarity and unification of paperwork, referrals routes, and the ability to access timely, appropriate local authority support.
- Most SENCos said they need more support, particularly more administration support. With a request that reduced paperwork, or greater support with administration, would enable the SENCo to direct their work to supporting children, families and teachers more effectively.
- The respondents, overwhelmingly, felt that the greatest priority in schools should be to provide effective provision for children with SEND through High Quality Teaching. SENCos stated that more was expected of teachers, as they were required to provide support within class, which previously may have been provided by an additional adult, or through an intervention. As a result, SENCos recognised that teachers need more training and support to manage this workload.
The impending revision of the 0 – 25 Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice (DfE and DoH, 2015) is an opportunity to develop the SENCO role, and related provision, at a national and local level. The report suggest the following areas should be considered…
Regarding the SENCo role:
- SENCos should have statutory protected time (in addition to their PPA and requirements for other roles held in school) to allow the effective facilitation of the role, to enable them to work with, and advocate for, children, young people and their families.
- It should be a statutory requirement that the SENCo is a member of the school senior leadership team by September 2021 (not just as part of their other duties).
- SEND support should be a team approach which would better, reflect collective responsibility for SEND provision (Particular consideration should be given as to how the role is facilitated in secondary schools and alternative provision.)
- The role of the SENCo in Multi-Academy Trusts should include clarity regarding whether a SENCo can work across more than one school, and how this links to ensuring SENCos have adequate, protected time to undertake their role effectively.
Regarding provision for children with SEN:
- The legal term for SEND should be reviewed in light of rapid development in sector understanding regarding neuro-diversity, as well the changing demographic of our school population.
- The four broad areas of need as defined in the SEND Code of Practice (2015) should be revisited to ensure that they provide accurate guidance for education professionals when planning special educational provision.
- Reconsider the use and application of the ‘category’ SEND Support, particularly as to whether it is appropriate to have one term to represent such a broad and diverse group.
- Chapter 6 of the SEND Code of Practice (2015) should be reviewed, separate guidance should be produced for primary schools, secondary schools and alternative provision, particularly in relation to how the statutory guidance can be effectively implemented.
The need for consistent, effective SEND provision nationally:
- SEND processes and practices across local authorities should be urgently reviewed. Particularly the additional non-statutory paperwork which local authorities often require from schools prior to an EHCP assessment.
- To develop consistency of practice across local authorities, a single, national template should be developed for the need’s assessment process. A single, national template for Education, Health and Care plans should be co-produced; using identified good practice in this area. Templates should be accessible (and secure) on line.
- A nation-wide SEND survey, involving all interested parties, should be conducted. This should be a survey which seeks to encompass the views of all those who are involved with special educational needs provision. This should include children, young people and families, as well as educational providers and other organisations.
- An independent review of universal provision should be undertaken. Specifically, the review should seek to establish the definition of High-Quality Teaching, and the related universal expectations in classrooms. Guidance and support for education professionals should be developed to provide understanding and consistency regarding High Quality Teaching within classrooms nationally.
Regarding SENCo role in educational settings:
- The Department for Education (DfE) should provide sufficient funding for the SENCo role for every school in the country with the cost of training (statutory) new SENCos being considered.
- SENCos should be given additional administration support, this role should form part of the SEND team, to support the view that SEND provision is a collective responsibility.
- The SENCo should be placed on the leadership pay scale, in order to reflect the demands of the role.
- The DfE should exemplify an expectation that schools will build protected time into their budgets and timetables for the SENCo and SEND team.
- SENCos should have access to supervision to enable them to reflect on decision making and to continue to develop good practice within their setting. Supervision sessions should be dependent upon the experience and needs of the SENCO, with the suggestion that SENCos new to role should access 12 sessions per year and experienced SENCos should access 6 sessions per year (this is comparative with allied health professionals working with children and young people with SEND/ learning disabilities and their families).
- Consideration should be given to the location of the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination and how the award relates to the wider structure of continuing professional development. It would be prudent to align the qualification alongside other development pathways, for example the National Professional Qualification pathways, to further integrate the National Award as a key career pathway for teachers.
- An annual, national review of the SENCo survey should be undertaken at the start of every academic year to establish patterns related to workload, activities and priorities as well as role retention. The survey will seek to inform policy and continuing professional development.
A challenging and far-reaching list of recommendations I think you will agree. But none that would not drastically improve the lives of hard working SENCos across the country.
Personally my top three would be…
- SENCos should have statutory protected time
- SENCos should have access to supervision
- To develop consistency of practice across local authorities, a single, national template should be developed for the need’s assessment process.
What would your top three be?
- Curran, H., Moloney, H., Heavey, A. and Boddison, A. (2018) It’s about time: The impact of SENCO workload on the professional and the school Bath Spa University.
- Department for Education and Department of Health (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years.
Lynne Swindlehurst, Learning Needs Specialist Teacher
One Education Ltd