A consultation document from the DCSF seeks views on proposals for regulations to ensure that SENCOs are qualified teachers with a defined role in the leadership and management of the school

The document also outlines progress towards developing nationally accredited training for newly appointed SENCOs.

These proposals are in response to the Education and Skills Select Committee report on SEN in July 2006, which recorded a number of concerns in relation to SENCOs:

  • SENCOs should in all cases be qualified teachers
  • they should be in a senior management position in the school, as recommended by the SEN Code of Practice
  • SENCOs should be appropriately trained
  • government needed to do more than simply say that schools should ‘have regard’ to the Code of Practice.

Qualifications
Regulations proposed in the consultation document would require a SENCO to be either:

  • a qualified teacher, who has satisfactorily completed an induction period;
  • the headteacher or appointed acting headteacher, some of whom carry out the SENCO function alongside other duties;
  • or a person carrying out the role for at least six months prior to the regulations coming into force who has a reasonable prospect of becoming a qualified teacher and completing their induction within a period of two years from the date of the regulations coming into force.

SENCOs and the SLT The consultation document does not require, through regulations, SENCOs to be members of the senior leadership teams of schools. The SEN Code makes recommendations along those lines and the select committee clearly felt SENCOs needed influence within schools. However, practical objections have been raised to this and, following discussion between the department and social partners, a compromise is suggested, whereby DCSF guidance would recommend that, where the SENCO was not a member of the SLT, a member should be designated as champion of SEN and disability issues within the school.

Nonetheless the draft regulations do clarify the responsibilities of governing bodies in relation to the SENCO. They require:

  • SENCOs to be employed, ie not volunteers, and employed as teachers not members of support staff
  • the governing body to define the role of the SENCO in relation to the leadership and management of the school
  • the governing body to monitor the actions of the SENCO in relation to key areas of the role (reflecting the SEN Code and knowledge of the way posts operate).

This means that the governors must monitor the actions of the SENCO in advising on, participating in, monitoring the effectiveness of, and (so far as is relevant) supporting members of staff in carrying out the following activities: i. identifying registered pupils who have special educational needs ii. overseeing the records of those pupils iii. arranging and monitoring the effectiveness of the special educational provision made for those pupils iv. securing relevant services from agencies external to the school v. liaising with and providing information to parents of pupils who have, or there is reasonable cause to believe may have, special educational needs vi. where pupils are expected to transfer to other schools or educational institutions, preparing for their transfer vii. taking steps to promote the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs in the school community and their access to the school’s curriculum, facilities and extra-curricular activities viii. selecting, supervising, training, and developing learning support assistants

ix. preparing and reviewing the information required to be published by the school pursuant to the Education (Special Educational Needs) (Information) (England) Regulations 1999, and of the objectives of the governing body in making provision for special educational needs, and the special educational needs policy.

Consultation questions Consultation will request answers to the following questions: Q1 Are requirements as to who may be a SENCO clear? Q2 Is the period of latitude given for meeting these requirements reasonable and helpful to schools? Q3 Are requirements in relation to governing body functions clear?

Q4 In terms of the coming into force date, is a one-year period of grace sufficient for schools to take necessary steps to bring SENCO arrangements into line with the regulations?

Respondents will be asked to reply yes or no in each case with additional comment invited if the answer is no. Other comments beyond these points will be invited and considered.

Timetable

The proposed timetable for implementation is as follows:

  • September 2008, regulations made following consultation.
  • September 2009, regulations come into force.
  • September 2011, cut-off point by which any person carrying out the SENCO role at the point the regulations were made (doing the job for at least six months prior to September 2009) has to be qualified under the regulations.

Nationally accredited training for all new appointees
The DCSF has said that it would require all newly appointed SENCOs to undertake nationally accredited training and commissioned the TDA to develop the necessary arrangements, building on the widest possible consensus. The TDA has analysed the responses to their consultations and interviews with serving SENCOs, headteachers, teachers and local authority SEN and school improvement teams about the role of the SENCO and how a national scheme for accrediting SENCOs newly appointed to the role might operate. The agency expects to submit its initial advice to the DCSF shortly. This will set out initial conclusions from the opening stages of the work and outline the further work needed to progress to full implementation (target: September 2009).

It is envisaged that this further work will involve more discussion with teachers, headteachers, SENCOs, staff supporting teaching and learning in schools, training providers and others with an interest in a national accreditation scheme, on proposals for the content and operation of such a scheme.

Although the necessary development work on accreditation is under way, legal advice is that the DCSF cannot introduce a mandatory training requirement for SENCOs until the requirements of it are known with certainty. It will therefore consult on further regulations at a later date covering the mandatory training requirement.

Readers wishing to respond to the consultation can do so either online, via the DCSF consultation website at: www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations, by email to a dedicated consultation mail box at: SENCO.CONSULTATION@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk, or in writing to John Perryman, SEN and Disability Division, DCSF, Area 2A, Caxton House, 6-12 Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NA, telephone 020 7273 5054, email john.perryman@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk. Please signify clearly (Q1 etc) which question(s) you are responding to.

The editors of SENCO Update would like to thank Stephen Dance at the DCSF for providing the information outlined in this article.

This article first appeared in SENCO Update – April 2008

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