A guest post from @Butterflycolour
Dedicated to all those amazing SENCOs out there:
Thank you for what you do – you are amazing!
This blog has been written to compliment a presentation at The London Academies Show 2017 on ‘Effective Strategies to Support SENCO Wellbeing’. So, I want to start with four questions:
- If you are a school leader: what are you doing to support your SENCO’s wellbeing?
- If you are a teacher: do you make time to talk to your SENCO about things other than SEND?
- If you are a SENCO: what do you do to invest in your own wellbeing?
- If you are a parent/carer: have you made time to thank your SENCO for all they are doing to help your son/daughter progress?
The point I’m making is SENCO wellbeing is everyone’s responsibility. You may well ask, why focus on SENCO wellbeing and not teacher wellbeing? Both are equally important and in fact a SENCO is a qualified teacher. There is already a growing #teacher5aday movement. Some SENCOs teach part-time and others do not. The role varies from setting to setting; yet the expectations of what needs to be done doesn’t. In reality, many do not understand the SENCO role and unless you’ve been SENCO; it is not possible to fully appreciate the challenges they face.
In my current role, I support the development of several SENCOs from those new to post to the more experienced taking up the SENCO Masterclass, after 5 or more years in the job. In recent years, the role has evolved to be more about leadership and management – driving the strategic and implementing the operational. In addition, SENCOs continually need to develop and update their knowledge, understanding and skills around the main four areas of need plus local authority requirements for assessment and additional funding.
In a recent network activity with SENCOs from different parts of the country, I asked them to list who is on their team. The results were eye opening – most deal with at least ten different partner groups, in and out of the school setting. Each group varies in the number of individuals that includes. Potentially a SENCO could have a team of more than a hundred individuals including pupils, parents, teachers, TAs, non-teaching staff, leaders, governors, external specialists (across education, health and social area) plus local authority officials. That’s a lot of people and relationships to manage!
The work of a SEND often involves several tensions between different partner groups and the SENCO is placed in the middle to negotiate what is best for the child; whilst ensuring everyone is on board and supporting the outcomes to move forward. Not an easy feat! There is often a fair amount of paperwork and communication involved too.
In addition to individual pupil cases, the SENCO needs to invest time in strategic development and school improvement – supporting the development and sustainability of quality first teaching, looking at budgets and planning ahead for pupils moving on and those coming in. It’s a juggling act – especially if (as many SENCOs are), you are only given 2-3 hours a week to deliver.
These are just some of the many reasons why for the last eight years, I have been raising the agenda around SENCO wellbeing. This year saw the launch of #senco5aday with the first newsletter coming out in June 2017. It will include practical strategies to support SENCO wellbeing. The #senco5aday resources page includes a FREE Time Management book for SENCOs; which is only 15 pages long, but full of lots of practical tips. Already the methodology proposed has received incredible feedback because it is so flexible and based around the individual circumstances of each SENCO. It’s not a one size fits all model.
So, until the first #senco5aday newsletter is published here is my call for action:
- If you are a school leader: make time to encourage and support your SENCO’s wellbeing
- If you are a teacher: find out what your SENCO does out of school to support their wellbeing. What are their hobbies or interests?
- If you are a SENCO: make time for lunch, an evening/weekend off and do something mid-week that fills your bucket!
- If you are a parent/carer: take a moment to thank your SENCO for their hard work. They are often on the receiving end of concerns, complaints, problems, challenges; but rarely any authentic gratitude.
Why? SENCO wellbeing is everyone’s responsibility.
About the author:
Anita Devi believes in ‘the joy of learning’. She is an educator, policy developer, change strategist, author, writer and trainer with international teaching/ leadership experience from EY to postgraduate. Her expertise is in learning, SEND, inclusion & disability. Anita has worked previously as a Senior Leader, SENCO, SEN Advisory Teacher, SEN School Improvement Advisor and Senior Lecturer. In effect, she brings case-specific, as well as whole school and strategic expertise to the dialogue. Since the launch of the SEND Reforms in 2011, Anita has worked with numerous local authorities and settings to support the ‘how’ of implementation. She is known for making the ‘how’ possible and communicating it effectively. A pragmatist, when it comes to social policy. In 2014, Anita co-founded Support 4 Learning iHub, a social enterprise committed to delivering SEND Support in the Community. Anita served on local and national posts for the National Association of Special Needs (nasen) for 10 years (2004-2014). It is during this period, Anita started the dialogue around SENCO wellbeing at a nasen AGM. This year, saw the launch of #senco5aday by Anita. Currently, Anita is a PT doctoral student in Education and Social Justice at Lancaster University, a Regional Lead for #WomenEd and UK Development Manager for high quality blended CPD in SEND.