(An adapted extract from The SENDCO, by Abigail Hawkins, Consultant SENCO @ Edukey)
There are a great many tasks that the SENDCO has to undertake throughout the academic year. Some are related to the whole school calendar like parents’ evenings, whereas others are specific to your role as SENDCO (Annual reviews).
The list below is not exhaustive, nor is it compulsory, but gives you some idea of what you may need to consider, beyond the normal school schedule.
I present the suggestions as a series of questions at the end of each section:
You may have to take responsibility for a number of financial elements and unlike most departments in a school you actually generate money as well as spend it. Generating money comes with its own skill set and a great degree of time. The majority of your money will come from the school budget and an element known as the notional (element 2) SEN budget. If you have pupil premium or LAC responsibility, try to keep your figures separate if possible. There is another element of money (called element 3, or top-up/high needs funding) which is held by your local authority. You are able to put in bids for this money to meet the needs of your most needy students. Most local authorities require several pages of paperwork for this not just about the pupil you need funding for but also the wider picture of your school (so they can check you couldn’t fund from elsewhere). Be prepared to spend several hours completing this.
You will also need to ensure your interventions and provisions are costed. Whilst this is not a compulsory part of your role, you will find that provision management is much easier when you take control of all parts for yourself. Fortunately, this is something you could do just once a year, or as you set up each intervention.
You may need to report on any SEN spending for the governors. This will involve reading the reports and explaining the expenditure against outcomes.
- When is the deadline for bids for your local authority’s top up/high needs funding?
- Can you apply at any time during the year? (It will also help to know when any training or information update sessions are being run.)
- When are you going to look at (or spend) the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) budget? (This could be a short meeting in which you are told we get X amount and it is spent on your TAs…)
- What licences are due to expire?
There are bound to be some fixed dates in the diary for meetings and training. My local authority was reasonably good at letting us know at the beginning of the year about moderation dates and network meetings, they were not quite so good about letting us know about training opportunities. (For example, one year they changed their funding mechanism and sent out the email with information for a training session about it on the same day as the session.)
The vast majority of these things are only going to happen once each calendar year (such as a personal CPD training session) and they don’t tend to need any preparation. However, consider meeting with your SEN governor which is recommended every term. You don’t want to step into that unprepared. The same will apply to any CPD sessions which you have volunteered to deliver, you will need time beforehand to prepare.
- Is your Local Authority offering any training updates for funding applications?
- Do you have any SEND network meetings or SEND moderation meetings?
- When will you meet your SEND Governor?
- Who else do you need to schedule meetings with and how frequently? (Local Authority SEND team, Education Psychologist, Speech & Language Therapist, Physiotherapy, Specialist Nurses, ASD team, Counsellor, CAMHS etc)
- What about transition dates?
- Have you planned in transition meetings?
- Have you booked any CPD sessions for yourself?
- Are you involved in SCITT/ NQT/RQT/Induction training?
- Do you have any NASENCO face to face sessions, and any related ‘time off’ for study?
- Are you delivering staff CPD? When and don’t forget preparation time? How will you follow-up/embed?
- Do any staff have CPD courses booked? Who will they feed back to, how?
- Annual reviews
- SEN reviews
- Parent evenings and open evenings (at your school and any transition schools)
- Staff meetings (where you are delivering an element) and SLT meetings (where you have been invited if not a member)
If you are unable to attend a meeting is it a problem? Can someone go in your place and how will they update you? If this happens you will still need time in your diary to meet the person both before and after the actual meeting itself.
Provisions and Pupils
One of your core roles was to look after the provisions in place for your pupils. This doesn’t just mean checking that they are running, but it also means gathering the information generated and analyzing it. (The move from provision mapping to provision management.) Whilst your school data manager (or an IT technician) might inform you that licences for Nessy and Lexia are about to expire, can you risk them forgetting?
Something that will eat up your time is meeting with parents and pupils to review the plans and provisions. Whilst you can possibly manage to fit these in during a parents’ evening there are a couple of things to consider: Is the space private enough to have a conversation with other parents milling around? Do you honestly have enough time on a parents’ evening to do the job justice? What will you do for those who don’t attend? And, do you have 3 parents’ evenings a year for each pupil? Again, in primary, this is easier to manage with class teachers taking responsibility for the reviews and the SENDCO perhaps only meeting parents for one review.
- Who are you reviewing on the register and when?
- When will you adapt your provisions?
- When will you meet parents/pupils as part of reviews?
- When are your Annual Reviews scheduled? Leave time before and after for any write-ups.
- Do you have a schedule for gathering parent/pupil views about SEND provision?
- Do you have an enhanced provision – what deadlines are associated for reports and bids?
- Has your school planned any special days and school trips where you need to consider the staffing or support for specific students?
- Do you know when fire drills are planned so you can prep any students with sensory needs, or train any students who use safety recess areas?
My team used to get very frustrated on INSET days. They felt that they were very geared towards teachers and not them. They were not too happy being tasked with display work or housekeeping tasks. I felt very torn. I needed to be part of the teaching input offered by the INSET but I wanted to do something worthwhile with my team. In the end we compromised and sent the teaching assistants on relevant courses (or had in house delivery arranged.) Things such as safeguarding updates, first aid, handling training, a series of visits from a diabetes nurse, educational psychologist, speech and language therapist and school counsellor. This also prevented any absences during the school year in order to update those qualifications.
Supporting teaching staff to deliver quality first teaching to the students in their classes is a large part of the role for which we are generally given very little time. You may decide to offer drop-in sessions, an open-door or schedule yourself a timetable where you offer support for an extended period on a regular basis before mobbing on to the next focus. Whatever you chose, put it in your diary, otherwise it will soon get swallowed by other things.
- Have you planned drop-in sessions/in-class support?
- Are any of your staff going to be absent for planned events (religious, unpaid, maternity)?
- Do you/your staff need to update any qualifications/certificates (handling, first aid, medical procedures)?
- Do you know if you need to recruit – when?
I will never forget my first year at one particular school. They hadn’t updated their policies in a while and I foolishly pointed this out to them. I ended up updating all the policies that are required to be displayed on the website, regardless of whether I had any responsibility for them. It was one of the most brain-draining, nightmares of a task I have ever undertaken. Policy writing is not a ten-minute job and no template or good example form another school is ever going to reflect your school accurately.
Census is such an important part of school and yet very few staff know or understand it. The data on the census is what will drive the future finances of the school. It is so important to provide the correct information. Fortunately, with electronic management information systems (MIS) this should make it easier, but the data produced is only as accurate as the data held in the systems. If you haven’t updated your SEN register in the MIS then it won’t be accurate on the report!
- When will you produce your SEN report for the website/governors?
- When are school policies due for update? You probably have responsibility for your school’s medical, accessibility and disability discrimination policies. Leave yourself time beforehand to research any changes to national and local SEND policy. Remember to refer to the local offer and how your school fits in with this. Make sure, too, to leave yourself time to review the teaching and learning policies produced by the different department areas, to ensure that these adhere to the SEND code of practice.
- When is census- what needs to be amended/checked before then?
- Do you need to write reports for SEND pupils or will the EHCP suffice?
- Will you write reports for any intervention sessions they have been attending? Generally the answer is no, but if a student has been receiving an intervention every day for the past year (for example, Reading Recovery), then it is good practice to let parents know what their child has been up to while out of the classroom.
- Ideally you will be reviewing and adjusting your interventions as you go, but have you also planned a session to assess the data in more detail so you can scrap the ones that aren’t working?
- Have you set aside time to research replacement interventions and ask for trials from companies?
- Are your provision maps and plans fit for purpose?
Do not collect data for the sake of collecting data! Wherever you can make use of someone else’s data to achieve your purpose.
That said, collecting a set of scores is one thing, it’s the time to sit and do something with them that is more important. If you do not understand the format of what you are looking at, or have been presented with, then you are going to need to learn all about that first before you can understand and write a meaningful report.
Examination concessions used to drive me insane! No matter how early I started them there still seemed to be a mad rush to get them all processed in time. You need to consider what parts of this task you are responsible for and ensure that you have these scheduled in with plenty of time. If you are booking an external assessor this needs to be done in advance since they do book up very quickly.
- When will you collect data – can it line up with whole school data collections?
- Are you a part of whole school observation schedules?
- When will you analyse the data you collect?
- When will you assess intervention information?
- When will you update reading/spelling ages (it usually falls to the SENDCO)?
- Will you have the data needed for examination access arrangements, or do you need to schedule assessments/book someone to do them?
- When do examination access arrangements have to be completed?
- When do you need to apply for modified papers?
- When (and how) are you collecting data to inform your practice? Ideally, this should be in line with whole-school data collections but do you need anything additional – for example, reading ages? When are you going to analyse the information, produce a report and plan actions from the data presented? Factor in time to do this.
- Have you looked at Analyse School Performance (formerly RAISEonline)? And how about attendance data, behaviour information and input from teachers/teaching assistants (TAs)?
If there were not enough tasks to keep you occupied from those above, here are a few others that you may need to consider.
I was fortunate enough to be able to access timetables towards the end of the Summer holidays and this meant I could spend the last week of my holiday planning my support timetable for the Autumn term. But it only takes one small thing and you might need to undo several hours work to accommodate an unexpected new arrival, or a member of staff who suddenly leaves!
- Are you participating in any awareness weeks?
- Are you headed towards recognition awards and their deadlines/reviews?
- Each year/term you need to plan your support timetable and interventions.
- You will also need time to review files of new starters (those that appear in bulk, and the ones that drift in over the course of the year.)
- Once you know your new cohort, have you planned in transition meetings? Sometimes you will be dictating the dates; sometimes you will have to fit in with the feeder or receiving school. If you want to choose the dates, get in there first with your organised Sendco calendar.
- Are you participating in any awareness weeks or heading towards recognition awards? When are these due and what resources or information do you need beforehand?
- Does your school have enhanced provision? If so, when are the deadlines for any reports and bids associated with this?
- Has your senior leadership team included you in scheduling observations to monitor the effectiveness of whole-school SEND provision? Use this information to inform your future CPD sessions for staff and to provide training for your TAs.
- When are the census dates and what needs to be updated for them? You may need to speak to your administrative staff or data team to change categories on the school management information system.
Some of these things only need to be done once a year, others may be done more frequently. Some are big jobs that could be staggered (for example, reports can be done by year group.)
I’d love to tell you that after answering these and filling in all the dates that that’s it for the year, but we like excitement so there’ll be plenty of last minute diary entries for new admissions, emergency EHC applications, parents who need reassurance, exclusions reviews and many more. Don’t forget that as a member of school staff you will also be expected to attend normal staff meetings and events too!