EEF Blog: Reflections of a SENCo – the importance of a whole school approach to supporting pupils with SEND
Kirsten Mould is Learning Behaviours Content Specialist for the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), alongside working at Mary Webb School and Science College in Shropshire as Head of Personalised Learning/Transition and SENCo.
Training to become a SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) has to be one of the most rewarding pieces of professional development I have undertaken in my career. However, it is also one of the most complex. It is complex because of the diversity of people involved in ensuring the best outcomes for pupils with SEND: the young people, families, school staff and outside professionals…not to mention the statutory legislation and procedures expected.
As part of this training, I was also told categorically that I did not have a magic wand and should not be seen to own one. This advice has stayed with me.
The SENCo can be viewed as the sole expert in SEND, in specific diagnosis, in provision and intervention, and in finding the proverbial ‘magic bullet’. This is unhelpful. In thinking about this half term, where our inclusive approach has been crucial, this has been brought into clear focus. Without a dedicated team building an inclusive school, involved in every aspect of SEND, learners are not able to thrive.
I have been lucky to spend time with a formidable group of SENCos from across the Research School Network and two of their observations have particularly stuck with me:
“Pupils have become task completers more than learners.” Primary SENCo
Developing effective learning behaviours has been a real focus for us this term. Attention on doing numerous little things well, such as reminders of new routines and rebuilding relationship connections, has proven key.
Learning has been at the forefront: scaffolding tasks with checklists; supporting with organisation of equipment; modelling metacognitive strategies by talking ‘Think Alouds’ when discussing goals, planning and reflective strategies. Simply ticking a task off as ‘done’ is not enough, deeper learning, questioning and discussion has had to be taught, modelled and expected once again.
In addition, continuing positive learning conversation with families has also been important as both they, and their child, have transitioned back into full school routines. Sharing self-regulation strategies between school and home can be effective too.