It’s important to put in writing what you want to drive next year, in terms of your provision for children with SEND. This helps you to remain proactive and attuned to the bigger picture, strategic priorities; not purely the day-to-day. You might be grappling with your development plan currently, trying to work out what your priorities should be for the next year. How do I make SEND provision better in my school? How do I decide what constitutes a priority? How do I work out what change will look like and how to bring others on the journey of change with me? There are experts in change management with books aplenty to guide you through the process. However, if you won’t have time to read them (along with everything else), try this brief guide to get you started.
- Use data. I wrote in a previous blogpost about what data a SENDCO should have access to. By knowing what you’re below national average for (attendance, exclusion and progress come to mind), you’ll know what the numbers say is a priority. In addition, is there anything of relevance in your school’s most recent OFSTED report, or within the new OFSTED framework, that should be on your radar? Data is not the whole picture, but it’s an important step along the way.
- Conduct a fact-finding exercise through your Department, perhaps using a SWOT analysis (or just tea and biscuits!) to find out what your closest colleagues think needs improving.
- Complete a self-audit of SEND provision at your school. To assist you in this, you might use the Whole School SEND resources on SEND Gateway, ranking your provision in 8 areas. You could decide the answers to all these statements yourself, or from within your own Department. In an ideal scenario though, you’ll cast the net as widely as possible – it’s important to look through the statements and get comments from those in your Department, from your Headteacher and SLT, from full-time classroom teachers; even from parents and pupils if possible/where appropriate. Your impression of provision may well be different from others’ views; your views on the priorities for SEND in your school may differ from how others see it.
- Speak to your predecessor (or your predecessor’s line manager) if you’re new to the SENDCO role or to a particular school. Learn from them what last year’s priorities were, as well as what progress was made against these priorities. If you’re not new to the role, look at your own priorities for the previous year. If you’ve ticked them off as complete, are there natural next steps? If you’ve not achieved those priorities this year, should they be rehashed or is there something that will still make this priority unattainable?
- Know the whole-school priorities. The SENDCO who has their own isolated priorities, totally removed from the whole-school priorities, is less likely to achieve success. The SENDCO who has close alignment with the Headteacher’s vision is much more likely to achieve lasting change. This is especially true if you’re reliant on others to help you to meet that priority. If you want all teachers to pre-teach their vocab, does the Teaching and Learning Lead in your school agree? If you want restorative conversations to help children understand and move on from a sanction, is it something your Headteacher is willing to direct their staff to do? For obvious reasons, whole-school impact only comes if your priorities join up in some way with the change being driven by others within your school. That might mean you need to work with your Headteacher on why you see your priorities as vital; better to do this than to work in futile isolation.
- Aim for conciseness. Your development plan should be a live document focusing on priorities, not a record of everything you do. Aim for 2-3 pages.
- Share it. Consider all the stakeholders who are key to you reaching the goals listed on your development plan. If you’ve done your job well as a whole-school SENDCO, your success will require many people to contribute to bringing provision forward. Ensure these people know how they are involved – those above you, all the way to Governors; those within your Department; colleagues across the school; perhaps even parents. If you share with parents that we want students of all abilities reading appropriately levelled books at home, some parents will take that on as a priority for themselves, or seek advice about how to support this objective.
- Keep it live. Have a dog-eared, well-thumbed copy of it pinned to your noticeboard. Bring it to line management meetings, even if you don’t always discuss it. Make sure you have someone (your line manager, Headteacher, Link Governor, a group of parents) who will be a listening ear and critical friend, as you update them on your progress throughout the year. Talking it through regularly will help maintain your focus on these priorities, while forcing you to reflect on progress frequently.