This SENCO Week provides pointers to help you finish off the school year in good shape and consider some forward planning for next term

The end of term is in sight and you are looking forward to a well earned rest, possibly with some sun and sangria, or the equivalent. But ‘leaving things tidy’ in school will be worth a bit of extra time and effort if it means you can begin your holiday with a clear conscience and a feeling that everything is in place for September.

Support for SENCOs

1.Make a list if you haven’t already done so. (See suggestions below) This helps to make sure that nothing is forgotten, and it is very satisfying when you can tick off something.

2. Prioritise. Decide on what can be done by the end of term or possibly in the first week of the holiday, and what can be left until the last few days of the holiday or until the new term begins. Avoid at all costs the scenario where you are working for half of the six/seven weeks that should be time for recharging your batteries.

3. Share the load! Think about who can help with tasks on the list. It may seem that explaining something to another person will take almost as much time as doing it yourself, but usually it doesn’t – and of course you are ‘banking’ for the future.

Next time they will be able to do it without support.

4. Work smarter not harder. Harness technology to save you time, negotiate some ‘admin hours’ from a school secretary, or a competent student for typing, entering data etc, bearing in mind any confidentiality issues around the information. Two heads can be better than one so consider working with a colleague (perhaps from another school or LA advisory/support service).

5. Have a clear out. Archive or throw out old papers/books/journals/pupil records and clean up your computer files too.

You will probably be on top of your provision planning for the autumn term and be in the process of updating the SEN register, adding names of pupils identified in previous settings (though it can be important to make your own assessment before allocating support) and taking off the names of children who have made good progress. CPD will be an important part of your planning for the next school year. An ongoing programme of regular, well planned, short sessions for staff is often very effective and can be flexible enough to respond to particular needs identified as the term goes on.

Suggested ‘to do’ list for end of term/beginning of new term

Task                        Notes                                               Done
Provision plan for autumn term (what, who, when, where – with costs)    
SEN register updated    
Support staff timetables    
Classroom/departmental support assigned and teachers informed    
Support staff meetings scheduled for new term    
Training programme organised (TAs/teaching staff/peer tutors, NQTs)    
Pupil reviews completed, written up; actions transferred to provision map/IEPs. Review dates logged for next term    
Policies up to date (SEN, inclusion, behaviour)    
Development plan up to date    
Governor for SEN/governing body has been updated    
Office tidied, paperwork organised    
Resources audited and new books and materials ordered    
Parents contacted (end-of-term report/ arrangements for new term)    
Transition information sent/received/shared    
Outside agencies up to date with pupil info/dates of meetings etc.    
Dates of meetings/events you will hold/attend next term are in the diary    
A timetable/plan for yourself for September/autumn term, including CPD    

This time last year, I mentioned a colleague’s analogy of the need to look after yourself as a professional in a very stressful role: ‘in case of emergency, the oxygen mask will drop down – be sure to fit your own mask before helping anyone else’. The implication here is that if you pass out you won’t be any good to anyone. It has clear parallels with being in a very exacting role and remembering to take good care of yourself, and it struck a chord with readers, some of whom were moved to get in touch and endorse the advice. Good SENCOs tend to always put the needs of others first – especially the children. You are not good at saying ‘no’ when asked to do something, and tend to invest a lot of emotional energy in the job. This often means that by now, you are exhausted and definitely not as efficient as you would like to be in terms of the time it takes to get anything done. That little job that was going to take ten minutes actually took you most of the afternoon! ‘Never mind’, you’re thinking, ‘I can catch up over the holiday’. OK –but don’t let work eat into your break too much and once the decks are cleared, take some time to think about how to avoid getting so overworked and run down in future (you can do this swimming in the pool, walking in the mountains or sitting in the garden). Think about how to:

  • get organised – plan how to use your time to best effect
  • delegate – use a competent TA to take on some of your workload; set up information on the intranet to enable colleagues to differentiate more effectively
  • get some admin support
  • keep meetings to a minimum and always have an agenda and time limit
  • use staff briefings and a staffroom noticeboard (actual or virtual) to share information
  • organise paperwork/electronic files efficiently so that time isn’t wasted repeating something or looking for stuff.

Spend some time too, thinking about your own professional development; book yourself on a course or a conference – something that will rejuvenate and inspire you. Meeting up with like-minded spirits is in itself good therapy and you may well learn about something that excites you and helps you make better provision for the children in your care. (Look at Optimus Education’s conferences and Nasen).

This e-bulletin issue was first published in July 2009

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.