By Dr Morris Charlton, Voice Regional Officer (personal view)
Following the introduction of the new SENCO qualification, the Pre-School Learning Alliance has published a new book "aimed at practitioners who either want to develop their knowledge of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or are on the path to becoming a Special Educational Needs Coordinator": Ready, Steady SENCO: the role of the early years SENCO (Pre School Learning Alliance, ISBN 1 907 1 907478 36 9, £13.65 Members / £19.50 Non Members, with online references within the text to appendices (presumably regularly updated), 90 pages and softback).
The demands of being a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in an increasingly challenging work environment is summed up in the introduction:
“With the right support and training the role can be highly rewarding, with further qualifications and career opportunities.”
It follows that, without the right support, training and opportunities, SENCO work can quickly become a black hole that generates stress and huge volumes of work. Managers please take note! My Voice casework focused on a disproportionate number of SENCOs in 2018.
It seems nowadays that the right support and training are hard for SENCOs to access, for reasons of time and finance. This booklet is, therefore, timely and, although perhaps a little on the expensive side, at 90 pages is worth it.
I don’t think it’s only for SENCOs, though – managers and governors/trustees should have access to the book to ensure that they are discharging their legal duties. It’s still surprising how many don’t know what they or the provision should be doing!
The format does allow an audit approach to assessing your own workplace: ‘Are we doing this? If not, why not?’
There are web addresses highlighting other publications and support materials that will help and support the SENCO and other staff within each of the chapters. These references are at present right up to date.
The Book is developmental in structure:
- Chapter One: The Legislative and Policy Framework
- Chapter Two: Developing and Inclusive approach
- Chapter Three: Preparation and adjustments
- Chapter Four: Identifying additional needs
- Chapter five: SEN support
- Chapter Six: EHC assessments and plans
- Chapter Seven: Complex medical and physical needs
- Chapter Eight: Local Authorities and external agencies
This is a thorough and methodical approach that will be helpful in a busy working environment to refer to quickly when staff may be unsure of the processes or when formulating policies.
As a SENCO for more than 20 years, I seldom thought of inclusion any more and just focused on meeting needs. It was somewhat surprising to reflect, whilst reading the book, that inclusion is still not embedded in the educational culture and that chapter was a timely reminder. I would contest that inclusion incorporates special education for those children with the most complex needs – the issue is to meet the needs of the child, not about segregated education. Special education is a part of the range of support available.
As a matter of style, it might be helpful to put some issues raised that are relevant to all settings in bold, but particularly so in the EYFS setting; as an example:
“Parents / Carers are the first and foremost advisers because they know their child’s individual needs and styles of learning, strengths and barriers to learning, likes and dislikes and everything else that makes their child a unique individual.”
As a SENCO working in a wide range of provision, I was interested to see if mental health issues were expanded upon in such a new publication – given the media focus, it might have been helpful to have expanded this new and developing area.
Overall – I commend the book to all involved in special needs and SENCO work.