Gareth D Morewood blogged here for two years, 2008-2010. Gareth’s first eBook, The Role of the SENCO: An Insider’s Guide, is now available from the Optimus Education shop.

As I read various online forums tonight, I have just one question. Should the role of the SENCO always be held by someone with a teaching qualification?

The ‘modern (21st century) SENCO’ is a very different from the role of SENCO 10-15 years ago. Before ‘taking a side’ as it were, I think it is important to consider the skills needed for the job.

Rita Cheminais (2005) considers the key attributes of a SENCO to be:

  • A lead professional
  • An advocate and knowledge/information manager
  • A commissioner and broker
  • A resource manager
  • A partnership manager
  • A quality assuror
  • A facilitator
  • A solution assembler

And I have to agree!

The modern SENCO needs to be able to do all of the above, as well as keep up with the school-based initiatives and whole-school issues that make working in any school a complex and challenging occupation.

Do you need to have QTS to do these things? Well I think we can all bring to mind members of staff without QTS who could address these issues admirably, and others who have a number of qualifications who would struggle. However, while I have some very competent non-teaching staff who undertake elements of the (my) SENCO role very well indeed, there are some parts of it they would not be able to do, nor should they. There are circumstances where a SENCO could be in post without QTS and be very effective, but I feel this would be a very exceptional case.

Regulations should not completely dismiss the possibility, but there is need for a rigorous set of standards that should be met in order to ensure quality across the role; be it held by a teacher or not. Regardless of QTS, quality of provision cannot be second-rate. The SENCO must be able to advocate strongly for a variety of different audiences.

I don’t think QTS is essential, however it does offer a base-line from which you can measure competency and a standard of work. Post-threshold standards also offer a good yard-stick, which dovetail into the skills outlined above.

In short, each school, each person and each community is different. I resist blanket statements and ‘cover-all’ clauses. Surely we are all advocates to the minorities and the individual?

I am certain that the debate will continue, however I do think we need to embrace skills and individuals in the role, not create further barriers and reduce the opportunities for some very skilled people to make a real difference.

Cheminais, R. (2005) Every Child Matters, a new role for SENCos (David Fulton: London)