The Changing Role of SENDCo
With the continual changing practice to our education system, the role of SENDCo has changed significantly. Mercifully, no longer is the SENDco role generally allocated to the teacher who couldn’t cope with change or who didn’t teach well, or the staff member who was waiting out the last few years until retirement! Thankfully, no longer are the students removed and placed into units, regardless of their individual needs, and put together so that the rest of the children could learn in the class without interruption or “difficulties” placed on the class teacher. The code of practice states that every teacher is a teacher of all pupils. This distinction ensures that every staff member is accountable for the progress of the children within their class and that every child makes progress.
The INCo (Inclusion Coordinator)
The role of the SENDCo has never been more challenging and I believe that the SENDCo role should be redefined as the Inclusion Coordinator. Every single child should be included in everything that the class does, and the INCo’s role is to ensure that any barriers to learning are removed. Every single child will encounter some problems or difficulty at some point in their life, so the role actually encompasses every child and, if done well, can on occasion, embrace their families, while help and support is given to them. The government have acknowledged this change in the role. The introduction of the mandatory National Award for SEN Coordination (NASENCO) recognises that this is a specialist role like no other in school. This master’s level course supports those new to the post to understand the leadership responsibilities, the current legislation and also directs that inclusion be central to any school. There is even recognition of the increased responsibility within the pay scale where an SEN allowance must be paid to classroom teachers in any SEN post that requires this mandatory SEN qualification.
Knowing the Bigger Picture
According to the Training and Development Agency, the INCo should be able to “work with senior colleagues and governors to advise on and influence the strategic development of inclusive ethos, policies, priorities and practices and take on a leadership role in promoting a while school culture of best practice in teaching and learning in relation to pupils with SEND” (TDA, 2009 pp2-4). Because of the advisory nature of the role, the INCo ideally should be part of the leadership team of the school. If possible, they should also be part of the safeguarding team as children often show vulnerability and need additional support when their families enter a crisis. Knowing the bigger picture and working with families gives the INCo a clearer insight into the difficulty of the child that needs additional support. When speaking about a child with additional needs, I will often refer back to Maslow’s hierarchy of need. If a family enters a crisis situation, the children are very often adversely affected and cannot, in reality, be expected to know or actually care about nouns, adverbial phrases or squared numbers. Not knowing what awaits them at home will often take precedence in their thoughts.
Forging Strong Links
Along with the cuts in local services, schools have had an increasing demand made upon them to deal with more issues which would, in the past, have been covered by outside agencies. These can include a whole range of social, emotional and psychological issues as well as difficulties in the family environment or, physical needs such as occupational and speech therapy. Where agencies are available, the INCo needs to be able to forge strong links to help ensure children and families are supported as much as possible. Being incredibly determined to demand help and persevere without losing this support, is a valuable skill for the role.
Emotional Learning Support Assistant
Over the course of my time as INCo, I have contacted a huge range of agencies not only to support our children, but also their families. These include help with the EHCP plan, to helping parents with their benefits, bailiffs and doctor’s appointments. I have registered families with doctors, dentists and have attended hospital appointments. I have answered emails / phone calls whilst on holiday abroad and attended crisis meetings during school holidays. Issues are not confined to term times, although they do tend to show themselves on the Friday afternoon at the end of the school term! Sometimes by necessity, schools are choosing to cover areas by paying for their own specialists within schools. I have visited schools with their own ASD classroom, speech and language specialists and occupational therapists. One of the most successful appointments that we have made within my establishment, has been with a full time Emotional Learning Support Assistant. She has been fundamental to dealing with behavioural and emotional issues within school. Identifying and proactively supporting children who have emotional needs allows any potential outbursts or lack of focus to be addressed before any bigger issue arises. This in turn allows other children to learn in a calm, safe and stable environment.
Family Support Worker
Another important appointment is the Family Support Worker. The bridge between families and school is vital to ensure that everyone works for the same purpose. Often these families are frightened to ask for help and have had difficulties themselves and building the families trust is vital.
Know an individual’s skills and areas for development
As an INCo, you are additionally responsible for a huge range of learning support staff. Knowing each person’s skills and areas for development is vital for each intervention to be successful and to enable the classroom to operate as effectively as possible. Interventions have to be monitored to ensure that they are worthwhile, high quality and value for money. The children who need such support are already behind peers. Investing time into this has to show that the gap in their learning is closing.
For any child going for an EHCP, each and every intervention is put into place first and then highly scrutinised, whilst acting on the advice of outside experts and agreeing the actions with parents. Collating and presenting this evidence requires patience, perseverance and incredible organisational skills.
Make Inclusion the Bedrock of the School
If inclusion truly becomes the bedrock of the school, then the school is a happy as well as an efficient place to be. All staff enjoy their work and will challenge the children who will, in turn, flourish. Children will feel safe in school and know that they are able to have their voice heard. If they have worries they can express them. Bullying does not happen as issues are tackled quickly. Visitors and parents can feel it in the ethos on entering the building and community links are strong. Families know they have somewhere they can call in on for help. It becomes an establishment where nobody is afraid of trying anything. Mistakes can be made and rectified without judgement or difficulty. The school becomes a place of growth.
One of the key auditing tools that has been essential for my role is the IQM – the Inclusion Quality Mark. Completing this work, whether going for the final assessment or not, will allow a time for reflection and for addressing any issues. I would highly recommend this award to any school who believes as strongly in inclusion as I do.
The Best Job in a School to Have
The role of Inclusion Coordinator is huge and only the determined should do it! Unless inclusion is at the heart of all that you believe and that you can transfer this belief into the heart of the school, then just don’t apply! If you are not phenomenally methodical and if you struggle to work well with some potentially challenging adults, then don’t attempt it! But if you can, the Inclusion Coordinator is truly the best job in a school to have!
Continue the Conversation
To continue the discussion regarding INCo, keep an eye on the Focus Education blog, or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818.
Jane Thomas has been teaching for a number of years in a number of schools across the country. She currently works in the North West and the Inclusion Lead Teacher and Safeguarding Lead. She has been at her present school for the last two years and has been instrumental in challenging inclusive practice. When she joined the school was in a category of Requires Improvement. The school has become a good school and has recently been awarded the Inclusion Quality Mark, Centre of Excellence. The safeguarding procedures at the school are exemplary.