Tips for SENCOs - Part 1: General
Approximate reading time: 3 mins, 30 secs.
1. You are not expected to know everything but you need to know where to go to find out!
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
3. Time spent networking is never wasted. It might look like a chat to others, but it really pays to be on speaking terms with all school staff, advisors, those who work at County Hall, governors, parents, etc, etc. You also make good friends along the way.
4. Make a point of attending cluster meetings and training. It is vital to network. This is where you will pick up some of your best ideas.
5. Form good relationships with outside agencies – if you do they will help you when they you need them.
6. Visit other schools and find out what other SENCOs do.
7. Do NASEN training for SENCOs.
8. Be realistic about what you can do. Set realistic targets – you don’t have to do it all at once.
9. Don't do the job if you are the kind of person who needs a lot of thanks and praise -you don't often get it as a SENCO. Treasure the thanks you do get from the parents who recognise your efforts. You have to understand that for some parents (especially in primary) you are the bearer of the news they don't want to hear. Some parents may not even want to be seen talking to you - it is an acknowledgement in front of other parents that their child has problems. Fathers of boys with difficulties can be particularly tricky - anger/grief/guilt can make them very hard to engage with. Sometimes the more severe the problem, the easier the parents are to work with, as they have come to some terms with their child's problems before school.
10. Be assertive – if you need information from colleagues they must stick to deadlines.
11. Have a notebook, date each other page and write down both your to-do lists and every single thing you do and your reflections upon what you did and how you will/would do it differently next time.
12. Don't pretend you have all the answers or a magic wand.
13. Don't underestimate your own value in the school - it is easy to be sidelined especially in an 'academic' and high achieving school. Your role is important. Some of the teachers who do very well with the very able wouldn't have a clue how to teach the much less able.
14. Do it for the children - or don't do it at all. It may well be a stepping stone in your career, but if you really don't enjoy it and find it more rewarding than any other job, don't do it!
15. Learn how the SEN finances work and fight your corner.
16. Appoint and surround yourself with people with ‘the right stuff’!
17. Never throw anything out, thinking you won’t need it – you will! You may get enquiries about provision made at school years after students have left.
18. Save everything you make for students. File it away on your computer. You can re-jig an awful lot of ideas over and over again.
19. Collect policy documents – training materials, etc. that those generous people on the SENCO forum offer. Writing your own “cold” takes a great deal of time. It is easier to see what other people have done and then decide what you want for your own school – and a great deal quicker too.
20. Get comfortable chairs – buy tissues in bulk.
21. Share the problems. Some staff may be as difficult as students. Everyone gets to work with them at some time. Find what works best.
22. Join the SENCO forum, one of the best resources you will ever find. firstname.lastname@example.org
23. Always be honest. Tell parents you can't do something if you can't do it. Tell TAs their jobs depend on funding if that's the case.
24. Shout out when you are overloaded. Ask 'What do you want me to stop doing?' if asked to take on too much.
25. Model good practice. Tell others when they do well. Everyone needs praise!
26. Carry out regular in-house training of staff. Try to put them in the position of the child with learning difficulties. Remind them that all teachers are teachers of children with learning difficulties and that the children in their class are ultimately their responsibility!
Coming soon: Tips for SENCOs - Part 2: Management of TAs
Contributed by Janice Rolnick MA RSAdip