As the days get longer and the summer term gets underway, it can feel like SENDCOs need to straddle more priorities than they have headspace for, taking on more work than they have time for. If working strategically is the only way to make this realistic, what does this look like in the summer term?
Consider these 8 areas as potential priorities for the summer term, which broadly fit into 2 categories: doing the summer term well and preparing to do next year well:
Doing the summer term well
- Statutory duties
For seasoned SENDCOs, this will be obvious, but it’s worth checking that every pupil with an EHCP has their annual review booked in and that every parent of a child on the SEND register will be met, as part of the duty to meet 3 times per year. I address some ways to ensure that 3-times-per-year (or more!) is realistic in a previous blog post. Remember, it doesn’t have to be the SENDCO holding all these meetings – just ‘an adult with good knowledge and understanding of the pupil who is aware of their needs and attainment’ (DfE-00205-2013, 6.67).
2. All eyes on the exams
Whether in primary or secondary, consider the upcoming exam experience for pupils with SEND. What additional support/intervention might be useful, in the weeks before exams, to close any knowledge gaps/provide additional opportunities for revision? What access arrangements are in place for pupils?
When considering exam preparation, balance messages about the importance of revision with messages about pupil wellbeing. Ensure parents are included in such messages, so they know how best to support their children.
3. Reviewing interventions
Of the additional support taking place for pupils, you should already know what measures of success look like. Make sure these measures of success get ‘assessed’, in whatever form is most appropriate – whether through looking at IEP targets, reading age, school attendance, SDQ, or through a conversation with the child/parents/staff.
4. Educational enrichment
Whole-school events are often slotted into the summer term. Get an overview of the planned trips and events and consider whether there are access issues with any of them, or indeed whether any preparation might be needed to increase access – a social story about sports day, some co-planning of the journey to a museum or ensuring steps are taken for a child to successfully attend a residential trip. Sometimes, flagging these issues to the relevant adult will be all that is needed.
Preparing to do next year well
Consider the pupils entering your setting, making sure you have as comprehensive an offer as is needed – visits to your school, visits to their home, attendance at their annual review, social stories about your setting, a meeting with parents, etc.
Consider the pupils leaving your setting, as well as the pupils having a significant transition through moving key stage. Ensure your offer fully supports their transition. Where you have concerns about another school/college’s insufficient transition programme, try to raise this with them and with their parent, for the good of the child/young person. I’ve found the Going Places transition scheme to be useful for the primary-secondary transition.
2. Gained time
Some secondary teachers have a lighter teaching timetable after May half-term, due to year 11s/13s being in exams. Though this ‘gained time’ is often quickly allocated to other things (covering classes, curriculum planning, etc.), a secondary SENDCO might speak to their Headteacher about using colleagues’ gained time to get some pupils ready for next year, through some targeted academic support. A full half-term of academic intervention, delivered by a qualified teacher and delivered within a small group, might help a year 9 to cope better with the literacy demands of a Key Stage 4 curriculum.
3. Next year’s priorities
I wrote in a previous blogpost about how to write a development plan, including the steps you might take to audit your current provision. You’ll want to do a good job of considering (with data, where possible; with a range of people heard in the process, where possible) what has been achieved this year and what the next steps of progress look like. Start this process of reflection early, so you can begin to get things in place long before September 1st – especially where this involves getting buy-in from your Headteacher.
This isn’t merely a question of replacing anyone who is leaving. Though that may be essential, this should also be a reflective piece of work, in which you might be asking:
- Do the roles we have in our department still match the needs of our pupils? If someone leaves, is it a chance to replace them with someone with a slightly different skillset?
- Of the staff who are staying with you next year, who would benefit from/is ready for development? What would this look like and what positive benefits might this bring for pupils?
- What external recruitment is needed? Where are good places to recruit?
- Is there enough access to specialist expertise? This may be an opportunity to look at your current spend on SEND and recruit specialists, in line with the needs of pupils (1 day per week of Speech and Language therapy, 10 days across the year of Educational Psychology, etc.)? Though this may be problematic financially, I write in The Lone SENDCO about how a range of trainees might provide additional capacity in your school, without requiring significant additional cost.
These 8 areas clearly need to be considered in the context of your school and where your SEND provision is. They’re not comprehensive, but they provide an overview of some of the things to consider before the end of the year.
Finally, remember that the summer term is long. The priorities above will need to be spread out over the term, in order to make them possible alongside the multiple unforeseeables that make the SENDCO role such a rich and challenging rollercoaster.