The first term as SENDCO can feel overwhelming. It may be your first whole-school role, your first SEND-specific role, or a role that you’re trying to carry out alongside several others. It can be hard to know where to start; it can be hard to ever take stock and recognise successes.
Rather than try to master everything in the first month, this list gives 10 ideas for things to try and tick off by September 30th. Each should be manageable alongside teaching and other responsibilities; it should be broad enough to cover many elements of the role, without expecting you to master everything in just over 4 weeks.
- Read the Section Fs of all your EHCPs
This is statutory provision, which you must make ‘best endeavours’ to provide. You need to have read it and have plans to implement it. You might want to separate the provision into the following, to make this a manageable task:
- Classroom strategies that teachers need to implement
- Bespoke interventions that someone will need to deliver immediately (and others to begin once the new term is underway and new routines are embedded)
- Strategies to implement if things aren’t going well (i.e. how to support when a child is struggling to cope in class, etc.)
You’ll need to find ways to share this information with relevant staff, where needed.
2. Communicate with all parents
The Code of Practice tells us we must meet with all parents of children with SEND at 3 points in the year (see 6.65 for the exact wording of this expectation). Though you’ll be unlikely to sit down with every parent/carer before the end of September, consider how you can communicate with all by this deadline.
This might just be a group text/email, letting them know how they can contact you (i.e. how they can book a parent meeting or which days you’re on the gate at the beginning of the day). This will be vital for some parents in reassuring them that their voice will be heard.
3. Drop into some classes every week
If you’re not dropping in and out of classes regularly, you’re making assumptions about the quality of teaching and learning. In as informal a manner as works for your setting, make sure you see for yourself what is going on for students with SEND in classrooms.
4. Drop in on every TA
This is less likely to be a formal observation, and more likely to be a way for you just to ensure that your expectations are being met. You might be looking at how the recommendations from the EEF’s Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants Guidance Report are being implemented in the classroom, for example.
5. Sit down with every TA
Make sure the people you are directly line managing have a chance to share with you their hopes (and any worries) for the year ahead. Make sure you have been clear about what success looks like in your eyes, and be open to feedback about how the wider SEND provision can be developed at your school.
6. Read something brief about every child on your SEND register
It’s very easy to have a sharp focus on students with EHCPs, at the expense of those who should receive SEN Support. Become informed (or refresh your knowledge) about all students with SEND, perhaps by reading each child’s 1-page profile. This can be achieved by the end of September by focusing on 1 or 2 year groups per week.
7. Know what interventions you’re currently able to offer and get data to suggest who should begin on what
Write down the intervention offer you can currently provide. This may simply be the same interventions you ran last year; it may be a more comprehensive process of being informed by research and resourcing your department accordingly. It will need to take into account your statutory duty (see point 1, above).
For each intervention, make a note of what ‘assessment’ looks like, i.e. what evidence you have of where the child is now and that this particular intervention is appropriate for them, be it social skills, spelling or a sensory circuit.
8. Communicate with all new staff and trainee teachers
Make sure that all staff (particularly new staff) know who you are, how to contact you and how to find out information about the students they are teaching. You might even provide some training yourself, or some links to sources of further information (strategies, additional resources, etc.)
9. Find some time to learn
You don’t ever need to know ‘everything’. But try to prioritise some time to formally develop your knowledge further, be it through reading a chapter of David Bartram’s Great Expectations, through watching the condition-specific videos on the SEND Gateway website or through studying Chapter 6 of the SEND Code of Practice.
10. Articulate your priorities
Try to spend the month working out what needs improving. Cast the net wide to see what others think needs improving (colleagues in your department, colleagues at senior leadership level, parents or even students). Articulate this as a handful of priorities and share these with your line manager and/or the Principal. Try to also articulate what support you need in order to make progress with these priorities.
The list above will need to be considered within the context in which you are working; there will be school-specific things that just can’t wait. But I hope that, by using the above as a guide, you will be able to end September with a sense of accomplishment at all you’ve achieved in the first month.
Finally, if you look at this at the end of September and realise you haven’t ticked them all off, please forgive yourself. These are just my thoughts; I’ve almost certainly never been to your school to see your context. In addition, the SENDCO role can sometimes be very hard to plan for; very hard to remain strategic in. Allow yourself the freedom to roll things over from one month to the next, where needed.