SENCO Week looks at how you can keep an overview of the barriers to learning for SEN students, and how to disseminate the relevant information to the right peoplepdf-8807507

SENCO Week – Helpsheet 27.pdf

The national SENCO training addresses the need for knowing about high incidence SEN and disabilities and how they can affect pupils’ participation and learning. In this issue, we suggest ways of improving your own knowledge, but just as important, how to share that knowledge and understanding with colleagues.

Support for SENCOs

As SENCO, you need to know and understand:

  • the four areas of need set out in the SEN Code of Practice and the educational implications of these
  • how the physical and social environment affects learning and achievement.

You will be the ‘expert’ in these matters, but all staff should be aware of different types of SEN and how to meet children’s particular learning needs in the classroom. They should understand their level of responsibility in catering effectively for all learners, and how they can contribute to a shared school ethos of inclusion (enjoyment and achievement for all).

Most school populations will have some pupils from each of the categories set out in the CoP:

Cognition and learning

Moderate-severe/multiple/complex learning difficultiesSpecific learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia)Down’s syndrome

Fragile X

Communication and interaction Autistic spectrum disorderSpeech and language difficulties

Attachment disorder

Behavioural, emotional and social Challenging, attention-seekingAttention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)BullyingSelective mutism


Sensory and physical Hearing/visually impaired
Physically disabled (cerebral palsy etc)

The crucial thing to understand, of course, is that children’s difficulties often overlap two, three or even four of these categories. More important than ‘classification’ is a consideration of what a child will have difficulty with and how teachers and teaching assistants can ameliorate those difficulties. By carefully considering their own attitudes and approaches and how they create the best climate for learning in their classrooms colleagues can reduce or sometimes even remove barriers to learning.

So, how much do teachers and TAs need to know about these SENs? It can be useful to think about this in terms of a ‘must, should, could’ model:

  • all staff must be familiar with the CoP categories and staged response to meeting SEN and know and use a good range of strategies to ensure inclusive practice
  • some staff should have more detailed knowledge of a particular ‘condition’ and employ some specialist approaches/resources to support individual children in their class or group
  • a few staff (often with previous experience of, or a particular interest in SEN) could develop specialist knowledge/qualifications in a certain field, eg dyslexia, ASD, behaviour management. These colleagues may be shared between schools.

How can you establish and maintain this model in your own setting?
First of all, you need to be confident in your own knowledge and understanding; this means staying up to date with research and identified best practice through reading, attending conferences and local meetings; networking with fellow SENCOs; and maintaining some ‘hands-on’ experience. Consider:

Supporting whole-staff development
There are a number of approaches to consider:

  • provide information in the staff handbook, on the school intranet, in the staffroom, about generic inclusive approaches
  • ensure regular updates in staff meetings/staff training days (with examples of good practice); keep your staffroom notice board up to date
  • produce a regular newsletter
  • observe lessons and provide constructive feedback to colleagues
  • hold SEN surgery sessions
  • provide extra support for trainee and newly qualified teachers.

With time being in short supply, it can be difficult to know exactly what to do for maximum impact, so consider using a staff survey to help prioritise CPD input. (See Helpsheet 27 attached)

Supporting teachers and TAs working with children who have significant needs
The SENCO can:

  • involve colleagues in identifying a child’s difficulties and drawing up action plans/IEPs
  • support teachers and TAs in developing specific approaches
  • include staff in meetings with parents – or give them feedback on meetings to keep them ‘in the loop’
  • provide more detailed (but concise) information about how the child’s difficulties might impact on his/her learning (look at materials provided by national associations such as BDA, NAS, Down’s Syndrome Association etc).

Supporting the development of specialist skills
In some schools, especially large secondary schools, the SEN team has designated ‘experts’ on different areas of SEN; these may be teachers or TAs. If you take this route, you need to:

  • consider how you appoint TAs/LSAs – try to recruit staff with existing experience/qualifications in specific areas, expanding the team’s range of expertise with each new appointment
  • keep abreast of the range of professional development opportunities available and be proactive in encouraging colleagues to take advantage of appropriate courses and events
  • remember that that there will be a wealth of expertise in local special schools and units; arrange reciprocal visits between staff (job-swaps are even more effective as a way of learning new skills and developing confidence) and/or ask special school colleagues to deliver CPD in your school plan for dissemination.

Using assessment for learning effectively, and setting appropriate learning objectives is key to good SEN provision and we will address some of the issues around this in the next edition of SENCO Week (146)

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2010

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.