Although policy writing and updating is ongoing throughout the year, summer is a key time for this sort of task. This issue we review the school policies that SENCOs and inclusion post-holders need to consider – specifically those regarding young carers and vulnerable groups

Support for SENCOs
There is a statutory requirement for schools to have policy statements or documents covering a number of areas; those most relevant to SENCOs and INCOs are:

  • accessibility plan
  • curriculum
  • home-school agreements
  • parenting contracts
  • prospectus
  • pupil discipline
  • race equality
  • special educational needs.

The school prospectus is a starting point for new staff, setting out the school’s approach to policies which are statutory and referring to additional ones drawn up by the school. In many cases, the regulations allow schools to decide for themselves how to put policies and guidance into action, so it’s important that you have input into the major documents.

The policy you will be most interested in of course, is the SEN one, often now termed ‘SEN and Inclusion policy’ to cover the interests of vulnerable groups such as young carers and looked-after children as well. The Code of Practice sets out how schools must meet the legal requirements for provision, including information about the roles and responsibilities of staff and in particular, the SENCO, who should have ‘sufficient authority to influence both policy and practice’ and who will act as a resource and advocate for the child, liaise with others involved in the child’s care and ensure that IEPs, and home-school contracts meet the pupil’s needs. This person is responsible for the day- to-day running of the SEN policy, working with and advising fellow teachers, coordinating interventions and communicating with parents and carers.

The school’s SEN policy must cover:

  • the identification of children with SEN
  • the provision made for them
  • how resources are allocated, monitored and coordinated
  • support from outside agencies
  • how provision is evaluated.

Some schools now incorporate the Every Child Matters (ECM) objectives within SEN policy (and throughout school documentation) and Rita Cheminais’ book, Every Child Matters: A new role for SENCOs, provides invaluable, practical advice in this.

In most schools, updating policy is likely to be the task, rather than starting from scratch – but if you are beginning with a blank sheet of paper, there are plenty of off-the-shelf policies to provide starting points (see your LA site or look at the teachernet options). Remember to:

  • keep it concise
  • make sure that it reflects the whole-school ethos
  • describe what is actually happening
  • make it accessible to all (written in plain English, avoiding jargon and acronyms)
  • make a summary available for parents
  • involve/inform staff so that they feel ownership of the policy.

The SEN Policy is a working document – some things will be fairly constant, others may change more frequently, eg names of people (SENCO, governor with responsibility for SEN, etc), so colour coding can help here. A loose-leaf format may be useful, with contents page and appendices including proformas, charts, guidelines, resources, addresses, etc.

Your role in supporting and guiding colleagues in meeting the needs of children with SEN is often at the fore in the new school year, when new pupils and new staff are on the scene. Using the points below as a framework within which to structure a staff meeting early on in the term can be useful. It will ensure a common understanding of terminology, policies and procedures and open up an ongoing dialogue between yourself and colleagues about practical strategies to use in the classroom.

Support for teachers
Every teacher has responsibilities under the SEN Code of Practice which include:

  • knowing the legal definition of SEN and the range of needs relating to the four areas of SEN specified: communication and interaction; cognition and learning; behavioural, social and emotional; physical and/or sensory.
  • understanding the contextual nature of SEN (ie acknowledging that environmental and curricular factors can contribute to difficulties in learning)
  • understanding the graduated approach to identification and assessment of SEN, and strategies which can be used for support, both in quality first teaching, and in intervention programmes
  • knowing how and where to get advice on meeting the needs of children with a range of SEN, including the SENCO and specialist professionals within school and from outside agencies (eg specially trained teachers for dyslexic pupils, speech and language therapists, etc)
  • being able to set appropriate learning objectives and individual targets for children with SEN.

In secondary schools and colleges, these points can be addressed in departmental policy and subject area meetings.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 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.