Tags: CPD | CPD Coordinator | SEN – Special Educational Needs | SENCO | SENCOs | Standards

The Training and Development Agency for Schools is currently reviewing the framework of occupational and professional standards used by the school workforce. In this article Christopher Robertson summarizes the expectations for SENCOs set out in the standards framework and discusses their importance in securing a teaching and leadership role for SENCOs in the future.

The review

The Training Development and Training Agency for Schools (TDA) review of standards used by the school workforce started in October 2005 and will be completed in April 2006 with the provision of advice to the secretary for state for education and skills. The first standards to be reviewed are those for classroom teachers. Specifically, these are concerned with:

  • qualified teacher status
  • induction
  • threshold
  • advanced skills.

An online consultation on the standards took place recently. The results are currently being analyzed and combined with the results of 12 regional discussion events. New draft standards will be published early in 2006 and there will be a further opportunity to comment on these at discussion events or online. Presumably, the national standards for SENCOs will be included in a later stage of the review.

SENCO standards

National standards for special educational needs coordinators were first introduced by the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) in 1998 and their status has always been advisory rather than statutory. At the time, they were clearly designed for use by teachers rather than teaching assistants as the five main aims make clear. The SENCO standards, based on extensive earlier drafts, were organized in five main parts.

1. Core purpose of the SENCO

2. Key outcomes of SENCO coordination

3. Professional knowledge and understanding

4. Skills and attributes

5. Key areas of SEN coordination.

It is not possible to outline all of the standards here, nor the comprehensive rationale that was presented to support their use. The booklet in which they were presented ran to a closely worded 14 pages. The importance of these standards in establishing the identity and influence of SENCOs was given new impetus in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) which stated that:

The SEN Coordinator (SENCO), in collaboration with the headteacher and governing body, plays a key role in determining the strategic development of the SEN policy and provision in the school in order to raise the achievement of children with SEN. The SENCO takes responsibility for the operation of SEN policy and coordination of provision for individual children with SEN, working closely with staff, parents and carers and other agencies. The SENCO provides related professional guidance to colleagues with the aim of securing high quality teaching for children with SEN.
(SEN Code of Practice, 2001, para 5.30.)

This paragraph refers to SENCOs in primary schools. See para 6.32 for a slightly different formulation describing the role of SENCO in secondary schools.

Mapping the standards

The SENCO standards were mapped onto an overarching standards framework in 2001, enabling teachers, particularly aspiring SENCOs and SENCOs in post, to use them on a voluntary basis in relation to specific professional contexts. These are outlined in the panel opposite.

If this standards map, and the more detailed set of National Standards for Special Educational Needs Coordinators (TTA, 1998), are to be rethought as part of the TDA’s current review of the occupational and professional standards for the school workforce, then the following DfES policy statement on the role of the SENCO should surely inform any discussions:

SENCOs play a pivotal role, coordinating provision across the school and linking class and subject teachers with SEN specialists to improve the quality of teaching and learning. We want to see the SENCO as a key member of the senior leadership team, able to influence the development of policies for whole school improvement.
(Removing Barriers to Achievement: The Government’s Strategy for SEN, p.58, para 3:14)

Furthermore, the TDA, together with the DfES, will need to clarify – particularly in the context of workforce reform and the replacement of management allowances with teaching and learning responsibility payments – whether SENCOs need to be teachers at all.

If the DfES view, outlined above, is the authoritative one, then they need to be both teachers and members of senior leadership teams.

To take part in the next part of the next stage of the TDA’s consultation sign up at www.tda.gov.uk/yoursay/.

National standards for special educational needs coordinators

The main aims of the national standards for SENCOs are to: a. set out clear expectations for teachers at key points in the profession b. help teachers at different points in the profession to plan and monitor their development, training and performance effectively, and to set clear, relevant targets for improving effectiveness c. ensure that the focus at every point is on improving the achievement of pupils and the quality of their education d. provide a basis for the professional recognition of teachers’ expertise and achievements

e. help providers of professional development to plan and provide high quality, relevant training which meets the needs of individual teachers and headteachers, makes good use of their time and has the maximum benefit for pupils.

Adapted from: National Standards for Special Educational Needs Coordinators, TTA, 1998, p.1. (Emphasis added to the word ‘teacher’.)

The Standards Framework: SENCOs

SENCOs, with the support of the headteacher and governing body, take responsibility for the day-to-day operation of provision made by the schools for pupils with SEN and provide professional guidance in the area of SEN in order to secure high quality teaching and the effective use of resources to bring about improved standards of achievement for all pupils.

Knowledge and understanding

[SENCOs should] have knowledge and understanding of:

  • The characteristics of effective teaching and learning styles, including the main strategies for improving and sustaining high standards of pupil achievement and promoting their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and their good behavior, and how those strategies can be used to support pupils with SEN.
  • How information and communication technology can be used to help pupils gain access to the curriculum, as an aid to teaching and learning and as a means of communication between those teaching pupils with SEN.
  • Relevant research, national inspection evidence and legislation, including the SEN code of practice and equal opportunities legislation and how these apply to pupils with statements as well as those without.
  • The requirements to communicate information effectively to LEAs, external agencies, parents and other schools or colleges on transfer.
  • How to contribute to the professional development of other staff in relation to pupils with SEN; including how to recognize and deal with stereotyping in relation to disability or race.
  • The purpose of individual education plans, including leading their formulation and planning their implementation and review.
  • The rest of the standards indicate what SENCOs should be able to do to carry out their duties effectively.

Planning and expectations

  • Analyze and interpret relevant national, local and schools data plus research and inspection evidence to inform the SEN policy, practices, expectations, targets and teaching methods.
  • Work with pupils, subject leaders and class teachers with tutorial/pastoral responsibilities to ensure that realistic expectations of behavior and achievements are set for pupils with SEN.

Teaching and managing learning

  • Identify and disseminate the most effective teaching approaches for pupils with SEN.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of appropriate teaching and learning activities and target setting to meet the needs of pupils with SEN.
  • Support the development of improvements in literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology skills, as well as access to wider curriculum.
  • Identify and develop study skills to support pupils in their ability to work independently and learn more effectively.
  • Lead and develop effective liaison between schools to ensure there is good continuity in terms of support and progression in learning when pupils with SEN transfer.

Assessment and evaluation

  • Collect and interpret specialist assessment data gathered on pupils and use it to inform practice.
  • Devise, implement and evaluate systems for identifying, assessing and reviewing pupils’ SEN in relation to the school’s SEN policy.
  • Provide regular information to the headteacher and governing body on the evaluation of the effectiveness of provision for pupils with SEN, to inform decision making and policy review.

Pupil achievement

  • Support staff in understanding the learning needs of pupils with SEN and the importance of raising their achievement.
  • Monitor the progress made in setting objectives and targets for pupils with SEN, assist in the evaluation of and the effectiveness of teaching and learning and use the analysis to guide further improvement.
  • Ensure the establishment of opportunities for themselves, learning support assistants and other teachers to review the needs, progress and targets of pupils with SEN.

Relations with parents and wider community

  • Develop and maintain effective partnerships between parents and the school’s staff so as to promote pupils’ learning; communicate effectively, providing information to parents about targets, achievements and progress.
  • Develop effective liaison with external agencies in order to provide maximum support for pupils with SEN. Managing own performance and development
  • Chair reviews, case conferences and meetings effectively.
  • Judge when to make decisions, and when to consult with others including external agencies.
  • Prioritize and manage their own time effectively, particularly in relation to balancing the demands made by administrative duties, teaching and acting as a resource for colleagues.
  • Take responsibility for their own professional development.

Managing and developing staff and other adults

  • Encourage all members of staff to recognize and fulfil their statutory responsibilities to pupils with SEN.
  • Advise, contribute to and, where appropriate, coordinate the professional development of staff to increase their effectiveness in responding to pupils with SEN and provide support and training to trainee and newly qualified teachers in relation to pupils with SEN, understanding their needs and importance of raising their achievement.
  • Support staff by ensuring that all those involved have the information necessary to secure improvements in teaching and learning, disseminating good practice in SEN across the school in relation to standards for the award of qualified teacher status, career entry profile and standards for induction.
  • Support staff in developing pupils’ understandings of the duties, opportunities, responsibilities and rights of citizens.
  • Support staff in developing constructive working relationships.

Managing resources

  • Establish staff and resource requirements to meet the needs of pupils with SEN, advise the headteacher, senior management team and governing body of likely priorities for expenditure and allocate resources made available with maximum efficiency to meet the objectives of the school and SEN policies to maximize pupils’ achievements and to ensure value for money.
  • Deploy, or advise the headteacher on the deployment of staff involved in working with pupils with SEN to ensure the most efficient use of teaching and other expertise.
  • Organize and coordinate the deployment of learning resources, including information and communications technology, and monitor their effectiveness.
  • Maintain existing resources and explore opportunities to develop or incorporate new resources from the wide range of sources inside and outside the school.
  • Use accommodation to create an effective and stimulating environment for the teaching and learning of the subject.
  • Ensure that there is a safe working and learning environment in which risks are properly assessed.

Strategic leadership

  • Contribute effectively to the development of a positive ethos in which all pupils have access to a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum and which contributes to pupils’ spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development and in preparing pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.
  • Ensure the objectives of the SEN policy are reflected in the school development plan, that effective systems are in place to identify and meet needs and that they are coordinated, monitored, evaluated and reviewed.
  • Set standards and provide examples of best practice for other teachers in identifying, assessing and meeting pupils’ SEN. Source: The Teachers’ Standards Framework for SENCOs: www.teachernet.gov.uk/_module/standardsframework/frmwork-stp2.cfm?position=senco

This article first appeared in SENCO Update – Dec 2005

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