This issue of SENCO Week discussees the attention that should given to SENCO’s professional development (CPD) and the importance of taking a well-rounded professional approach to the role

Support for SENCOs
An important part of your SENCO role these days is the training of TAs and the professional development of colleagues in terms of helping them to meet pupils’ special educational needs. Last week’s issue on ‘dyslexia’, and future issues of SENCO Week, will support you in these tasks. But what about your own professional development? Do you feel that you have too much to do to be able to take ‘time out’ for your own benefit? As we pointed out at the end of last term, this failure to consider yourself and your own professional needs is really counterproductive. You have an important role to play and keeping abreast of new developments, research findings, good practice and effective resources is essential to high-quality performance.

To some extent, I’m talking to the converted: the fact that you are taking the time to read SENCO Week is a good indication that you have a professional approach. But responses from a recent survey make it clear that some readers struggle to access any other form of SENCO-specific training or development. At the start of this new school year, why not make a resolution that you will be proactive in this respect? There are various audits of the SENCO role available (eg in SENCO at a Glance, Continuum publishers), which can be useful in deciding on your strengths and weaknesses and planning appropriately. Take a look at the list of CPD opportunities below and decide on what you can realistically do (maybe print it out and highlight the points for action); then enter dates in your diary/the school diary, discuss it with the headteacher/your line manager, involve colleagues if appropriate: by ‘formalising’ your intentions in this way, there is less chance of changing your mind and backing out of something because of ‘too much work’ (or simply forgetting all about it!).

On one level, this is the easiest kind of CPD to implement; on another, it is also the easiest to fall by the wayside. Consider:

  • joining the national association (nasen – this gives you access to a range of publications, local and national events, discounts at conferences etc
  • subscribing to a journal, eg SENCO Update, Special Children – and reading it. This will also be valuable for colleagues and LSA/TAs
  • buying or borrowing professional books. Look at specialist publishers such as David Fulton/Routledge; Paul Chapman/Sage, Continuum and Jessica Kingsley. Browsing the publishers’ stands at exhibitions (see below) is an excellent way of finding what you want. Contact national associations for their publishing lists (and any training offered)
  • finding out about distance learning opportunities, eg Open University, or post-graduate courses offered by your local university
  • setting up a small group of SENCO colleagues to meet regularly and exchange information and ideas. (Your LA probably has this in place already but perhaps on larger scale. Make sure it offers what you need – if not, contact the LA officer in charge to discuss options.)
  • visiting/shadowing SENCOs in other schools; look at their management systems and observe some lessons.

Local authority training and other providers
Most LAs offer regular training of one sort or another. The Inclusion Development Programme has prompted many to address speech, language and communication needs and make use of the materials recently provided by the National Strategies.

SENCOs work with a whole range of professionals from outside the school and you need to know where and how to find further support from various agencies and your local authority. Making links with colleagues in health and social services can be a valuable form of CPD, as can attendance at joint training events.

Look out for courses that enhance managerial and leadership skills as well as skills that focus on more familiar aspects of coordination (you may need to actively search for this type of CPD).

Conferences and exhibitions
Subscribing to a journal will keep you informed of upcoming training events and conferences. These can be an excellent way of keeping up to date, meeting other SENCOs, discovering new resources (especially technology) and seeing the ‘big picture’; it’s very easy to become introspective if your nose is close to the grindstone all the time. Plan ahead, request the time/delegate fee and sort out travel arrangements; then think about what you want to get from the event. This is especially important for big exhibitions, with workshops etc. It’s all too easy to aimlessly traipse around for hours on end, getting tired and achieving very little. Know what you’re looking for and set out to find it.

Probably the best of its kind is the Special Needs London event taking place at the Business Design Centre, Islington on 17-18 October.


Autumn challenge to schools
This autumn the National Literacy Trust is supporting the National Year of Reading (NYR) in challenging schools to run creative reading activities linked to monthly themes and promoting reading in all its forms. There will be two prizes of £2,000 worth of Oxford University Press (OUP) resources for the best activities from a primary and secondary school, as well as two spot prizes of £500 worth of OUP resources. To find out how to get involved, visit the Year of Reading website.

You can also find reading ideas on the website.

The children’s laureate, Michael Rosen, has written a poem especially for the NYR. This celebration of words for children highlights the NYR message that all forms of reading count – from comics, to blogs and magazines. The poem is available as a poster.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2008

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.