Response to article A new role for us monitoring SENCos – what will it mean? published in the Guardian on Tuesday 15 April, 2008

Why do newspapers have to put figures on everything? This article states that £4.4 million will be spent over two years to implement proposed changes that are not that different from current practice, in many schools at least.

The article then goes on to link students leaving school without GCSE English and maths directly to the SENCo role. Quite frankly, I find this very offensive!

We have surely moved away from the SENCo working with ‘poor readers’ and young people who hate maths. Now the role is far more strategic, considering different and varied needs, being a lead professional and advocate for young people with a range of barriers to learning and participation.

The government says: “SENCos have a key role to play within schools to ensure effective provision for children with SEN and disabilities, and the government wishes to strengthen the role of SENCos within the leadership and management arrangements in school.” 

Why have they stopped short of directing schools and Local Authorities to have the role on the Senior Leadership Team of each individual establishment?

To add more to this thorny debate – the draft regulations continue to “require the governing body to define the role of SENCo in relation to the leadership and management of the school” and “require the governing body to monitor the action of the SENCo in relation to key areas of the role.”

As a staff governor of my large secondary school I know first hand that very few ‘modern’ governors have the necessary skills to ensure that the SENCo is in fact working within the legal frameworks that legislation enforces, let alone have enough knowledge (and time) to monitor the role effectively.

Governing bodies are lucky to have members with educational expertise; and despite lots of training opportunities that are offered, many simply do not have the time to become an ‘expert’.  Surly that is one of the key elements of being a SENCo – being the ‘local’ expert in all issues relating to SEN and disability.

I look forward to seeing how this develops, from the draft and into practice. I have been asked to join a government advisory group for SENCos and have the first meeting in July. Maybe this will enlighten me? Maybe I can influence the decisions, from a ‘real’ perspective?

Are we now not only dumbing down the role of SENCo (by not ensuring they are on the Senior Leadership Team of the school), but also weakening the effectiveness of provision by asking governors who may have had little or no real experience of SEN and disability issues, to monitor and evaluate the provision?

I have trained hard to become a good SENCo. Obtained an MA in Special and Inclusive Education, attended several additional training courses and specific sessions, and am working towards a doctorate. Not to mention the numerous advisory groups and forums I participate in, and the charity work I do supporting parents and carers with legal issues relating to SEN and disability discrimination.

Still I don’t know even half of it, so how can someone without even a fraction of my experience be ultimately responsible? Simply, they can’t…we watch this space with highly trained eyes!