Linda Evans discusses useful tasks for SENCos for this time of yearpdf-5706387

SENCo Week – Helpsheet 26.pdf

You’re probably well into the ‘Christmas experience’ now with nativity plays, parties, visits from Santa, carol concerts and discos being dominant features of the last two weeks of term. In some schools, this time of year is more hectic than normal but sometimes, there are opportunities to steal away from the various festive activities and take time to reflect on the autumn term and prepare for the spring.

Support for SENCOs
Christmas is a busy time for many of us (dare I say especially the women?). Shopping, present wrapping, cooking, entertaining… many of you will be returning to school in January even more tired than you are now ! So, get organised for the new year; do as much as you can for the new term and allow yourself to enjoy the holiday, free from fretting. Some reflection on this term’s activities will enable you to evaluate the effectiveness of various interventions, staffing allocations and schemes of work so that your planning for next term is well considered (see Helpsheet 26 for checklist). In addition to this, you might like to consider the points below:

  • Remember to thank your teaching/support assistants and any volunteer helpers. Christmas is the ideal time to acknowledge their hard work and show how valued they are as individuals. You might be organising a social event, bringing cakes into school and/or setting up a ‘secret Santa’ method of exchanging presents (or hopefully, someone else has been delegated to do it) but be sure to give a handwritten note to each one, conveying your thanks and appreciation.
  • Make time to speak to each TA/LSA about their work and different support activities. Sorting out any (relationship) problems now will allow the dust to settle over the holiday and help to create a new start in January. Speak to class/subject teachers too, about support arrangements for next term and any particular requests/requirements.
  • Use organised parents’ events like Christmas plays and concerts to snatch a quick word with parents and carers about their children’s progress. Remember to use this seasonal opportunity to send out good news about their child’s achievements and/or behaviour. Use the telephone, email or a short note in the post to contact those you don’t see in person. A print of a digital photo of their child engaged in a classroom activity is always well received.
  • This strategy also works well with pupils! Even those who are in secondary school will appreciate an acknowledgement of their hard work and some encouraging words form you and/or a TA who works with them. This simple act can do wonders for their self-esteem.
  • Be sensitive to the fact that Christmas isn’t a happy time for all children; those whose parents are living apart for example, can often find themselves in the middle of difficult situations over the holiday.
  • Lots of teachers have told me about parents asking for homework for their children over this holiday. Perhaps they remember only too well their experiences from previous years when the novelty of new toys/gadgets has worn off, the weather is horrible and there’s ‘nothing on the telly’. It can be easy for teachers to dismiss this with a suggestion of ‘playing games’, ‘letting them paint’ or reading to them… but not all parents have the resources (practical or personal) to keep their youngsters happily engaged over a relatively lengthy period at home. For SEN pupils, this is a good opportunity to put together some activities which will not only be fun and stave off boredom, but also help them to practise important skills. Consider whether TAs could be usefully employed in this way, (rather than watching yet another rehearsal). Spelling games, audio books, short writing activities (in special Christmas books), book bags, number problems, handwriting practice… the possibilities are almost endless.

Have a very happy Christmas and New Year. SENCO Week will resume in the new term with support for SENCOs in line with the areas specified for the new national training programme.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in December 2009

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.