Starting off the term focusing on working in partnership, this issue takes an overview on the skills involved in working collaboratively and provides an overview of new publications and initiatives to be aware of

Spring is in the air – well, almost! Could it be time to breathe new life into your ‘partnership working’ arrangements and take a fresh look at how you build and sustain positive relationships? This term we will help you to take stock of the systems and processes you have in place for engaging with parents/carers and professionals from various outside agencies.

Support for SENCOs
Looking after the best interests of a child with special educational needs will often involve you in looking at the ‘big picture’ of provision. This involves considering parents or carers (and often the wider family); other professionals who may already be involved, or who could be able to help; and organisations and support groups that can provide valuable information and support. The term ‘team around the child’ (TAC) has become popular as a way of promoting this shared responsibility and acknowledging the fact that one person can’t do it all! In reality, however, many SENCOs find that they themselves are the ‘key worker’ within such a team, driving the multi-agency working and acting as advocate for the child or young person. This means that you need to:

  • understand the difficulties encountered by some families in simply ‘surviving’ on a day-to-day basis and managing to support their children’s learning
  • be able to connect with parents who for whatever reason, feel ‘disengaged’ with education
  • be knowledgeable about all the different sources of help available and how to access them
  • recognise that different agencies have different priorities, budgets and ways of working
  • develop excellent interpersonal skills – a high level of tact alongside a good measure of assertiveness
  • build a positive relationship with the child/young person, involving them wherever possible in considering the options and making decisions about the care and support being planned.

The part played by a child’s family is hugely important, particularly during the primary phase. We may have to remind ourselves from time to time that school is a relatively small part of a child’s life. In approximate terms, a child can expect to be awake for at least 4,380 hours in a year; of these waking hours, less than one fifth will be spent in school, even with full attendance. Every SENCO and every teacher knows the value of good support and encouragement from a child’s home, yet parents still repeatedly complain about the lack of meaningful communication with schools. Brian Lamb’s inquiry very recently reported on how parents of children with special educational needs feel let down and unsupported in the English education system. Its recommendations are resulting in a raft of publications and initiatives to improve the situation (see box below) and the proposed ‘parent guarantee’ is designed to provide a formal system of reassurance that schools are giving serious consideration to the needs of individual learners.

In the next issue of SENCO Week, we will look at some ways of building good relationships with parents and families and describe some tried and tested strategies for developing mutual respect and cooperation.

The DCSF has recently launched Support for All: The families and relationships green paper and is consulting on measures to further support all families. You can read the paper and see the consultation at

Parent support adviser (PSA) projectDCSF funds parent support advisers who work with parents, in a schools context, to help improve behaviour and attendance, overcome barriers to learning and increase the number of parents involved in their child’s education, both at school and at home. More information about the project is available on the TDA (Training and Development Agency for Schools) website:

How Primary and Secondary Schools Help Parents and Carers to Improve Their Child’s Learning
Booklets and accompanying DVDs feature examples of good practice and case studies about engaging parents. DCSF Online Publications:

Online reporting
By September 2010, secondary schools will be expected to report online to parents and carers about their child’s progress. Primary schools will need to do this by September 2011. More information about online reporting is available in the ‘Schools’ section of the Becta website:

Engaging Parents in Raising Achievement: Do parents know they matter? A research project on the relationship between parental engagement and

raising achievement:

Getting InvolvedA video for parents of children who are moving from primary to secondary school. The video is available to watch on the National Strategies website:

The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family
Education on Pupil Achievements and Adjustment: A literature reviewThis review by Charles Desforges and Alberto Abouchaar investigates therelationship between parenting and pupil achievement and engagement.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2010

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.