In a school, who is busier than the SENDCO?
Who has the same pressures of supporting pupils, communicating with families and liaising with external agencies?
Who else has to learn so much, about such a broad topic, in such a short time?
It can feel impossible.
It is impossible.
At least, it is impossible if you’re flying solo.
A problem shared
We sometimes equate being busy with being useful. But the most impactful SENDCOs will judge themselves not by how busy they are, but in how effectively they keep SEND on everyone’s radar; how well they keep everyone invested.
The best SENDCOs bring other stakeholders on board. They make SEND everyone’s responsibility. If this isn’t yet the case in your school, try taking the following 5 steps:
1. Know it yourself
Know what you want from colleagues. It might be a small number of teaching strategies you want in all classrooms, a certain pupil document you want all staff to read or some emotional regulation strategies that you want all pupils to be able to adopt. But the first step to whole-school ownership of this is for you to be able to articulate this clearly, consistently and frequently.
- Try to articulate in no more than 20 words, what you want colleagues to embed in their practice next term.
2. Share it clearly, make it easy
Treat your colleagues as professional novices. Speak with respect and honour people’s ability to lead their own classroom, but prepare them as if they are new to SEND. Remove technical jargon from pupil documents. Express something in 5 bullet points, if it doesn’t require 3 pages. Tell people what you need them to know, in a way they will be able to move forward with.
Likewise, when you need something from staff – attendance to a meeting about a child, completion of a teacher feedback form for an annual review – make it easy. Schedule the meeting in directed meeting time if you can, rather than it being an extra; put your feedback request into an online form/the body of an email, so staff don’t have to save it, attach it and send it back to you. These small differences can greatly impact your ability to get staff buy-in.
- Look at the last document you sent out to staff about SEND. Evaluate whether it judges people’s expertise correctly, or whether your reference to receptive language/oppositional behaviours needs explaining to some staff.
3. Consider incentives
If what you want from staff makes their teaching harder and their lesson planning longer, you won’t get everyone on board - the moral imperative works for many, but not for all.
If what you’re asking for feels like a win-win, you’re more likely to get buy-in. Try to think of it from your colleagues’ point of view.
- Consider the next piece of teaching and learning advice/training you plan to give to staff.
i. Can you show staff that the teaching strategies you’re promoting will help students to retain more subject knowledge?
ii. Can you show that teaching a few strategies to support emotional regulation will support all pupils to manage their own behaviour more successfully?
4. Take a bespoke approach
Consider what different colleagues can do for you and for your provision. An effective, whole-school SEND provision will get the most out of the skills and responsibilities of a wide-range of staff.
- Make a list of the stakeholders for SEND in your school. Write down how each individual/group might bring your provision forwards, in a way that is realistic for them, i.e.:
i. Can all form tutors/class teachers have a morning check-in with the pupils you’re most concerned about?
ii. Can lunchtime staff give a 5-minute warning to any pupils who struggle with transitions, before the afternoon lessons begin?
iii. Can a Head of Year/Phase always recognise a pupil/pupils with SEND in their achievement assembly?
5. Maintain a positive narrative
When things get tough in school – at the end of a day, week or term – and you need staff to go the extra mile for a child with SEND, a collective feeling of success and positivity – a sense of ‘our school does this well’ – will give colleagues more incentive to persevere, where they need to.
- Consider when you last gave positive messages to your whole staff. How often do you give public praise to colleagues or share the successes of pupils?
I wrote a book recently called The Lone SENDCO.
Someone criticised it on Twitter, arguing that working alone is the wrong approach.
Of course it is.
My point was that it can feel that way, not that it should be that way.
Using those around you is of course essential.
So, when your to-do list is getting longer and the successes feel less frequent, take a moment to reflect on how well you are using those around you.
Get all colleagues fully bought in to what you’re doing, in order to move your provision forward and make your own workload manageable.