The first SENCO Week of the new term looks at the importance of planning how to share information and how to develop good inclusive practice

Support for SENCOsThis term we will be supporting you by providing guidance on how to fulfil different aspects of your role, and covering a range of different special educational needs, with additional notes on how to share information with colleagues, parents and pupils themselves. In this way, SENCO Week aims to save you time and effort in the part of your role that is about sharing information, raising awareness and developing good inclusive practice. Our next issue will be the first in this series looking at dyslexia, but this issue looks at taking stock of how you approach this important aspect of your work and perhaps consider ways in which it could be enhanced. 

Information for colleagues

This can be considered in five main categories:1.    General information about SEN: how they manifest in the classroom and what the barriers to learning and achieving might be.2.    Some practical strategies to support pupils with particular difficulties and needs.3.    Specific information about individual pupils.4.    Relevant information about the work of TAs/LSAs/the learning support department in supporting individuals and groups of pupils.5.    News and information about national initiatives, latest research projects etc. We will be providing you with up-to-date and concise information to contribute to the first two categories this term. You may consider posting this on to the school intranet, printing copies for specific members of staff and/or compiling a SEN booklet for the staffroom or an appendix to the staff handbook. The specific information about individual children and young people has to be considered carefully of course, with confidentiality in mind, but try to make sure that pertinent points are passed on to all teachers and assistants who will find the information helpful. This is especially important at transition from primary to secondary, from first to middle and from middle to high schools. Too often, detailed information is provided by the feeder school, only to be carefully filed in some secure cabinet without ever reaching those staff who could benefit from seeing it.The fourth point can also be overlooked, especially when support is provided outside the classroom. If teachers know that Freddie is attending a lunchtime reading group to help develop his literacy skills, they can encourage him and be patient with any shortcomings in lessons. If a child is withdrawn from a primary classroom for literacy/numeracy support, the class teacher should understand exactly the programme being followed and how to reinforce the child’s learning throughout the school day/week.The fifth point may seem less important, but if colleagues know about government initiatives such as the Bercow Review and the Inclusion Development Programme, the profile of SEN and the importance of your role is raised; the philosophy of a shared responsibility for meeting individual needs is also reinforced. Use staff meetings for quick (five-minute) bulletins and a staff notice board (real or virtual) to raise awareness of national policy and to publicise any local/national training events that colleagues might like to attend.

Information for parents

Most schools now produce printed information for parents about the support provided for pupils with SEN and how parents can contact the SENCO if they have concerns. In the coming weeks, we shall be providing you with some notes that you may like to copy for specific parents so that they can better understand their own child’s needs and offer effective support. Putting them in touch with a local or national charity/support group can also be valuable.

You will already have a system of involving parents in decisions about their children’s education and the kind of interventions to be implemented, and ways of providing regular feedback on progress made. Too often though, this can be less-well covered for families whose children do not have statements. Consider running a workshop session for parents/grandparents of children who need literacy support, for example − with ideas on how to help at home. Explaining what is going on in any intervention programme can also reassure parents that something positive is being done for their child − and encourage them to ‘do their bit’.

Remember to keep parents informed about the good days as well as the bad days too; a quick phone call, note, text or email saying ‘Tamsin behaved really well today and got a Super sticker’, can mean an awful lot to a parent − especially for those whose visits to school tend to be of the ‘cause for concern’ kind!

Information for pupils

Children and young people with special needs can benefit from regular mentoring, and it’s an expectation nowadays that every pupil is given the opportunity to contribute to decisions about provision and reviews of progress. Knowing that teachers understand your problems and are willing to help can be very important; knowing that there are others who have the same difficulties can also be reassuring. Provide information in ‘pupil speak’ – for a child’s classmates and/or circle of friends, as well as for the child himself. We’ll be giving you some ideas for this, and pointing you in the direction of useful resources in future issues.

SEN NEWS

The Department for Schools, Children and Families has announced the launch of a website for teachers, parents, young people and others with an interest in dyslexia. The site has been launched by Sir Jim Rose as part of his review into learning for children with dyslexia and is expected to inform his development of recommendations to the secretary of state for children, schools and families. Sir Jim has asked for personal stories in addition to published research. The website will also contain regular updates and information about the review, which is scheduled to be published in February 2009.

The website address is: www.dcsf.gov.uk/jimroseanddyslexia.

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.

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