“Me? A Sendco? Why not?!” she exclaimed in excitement, before bounding out of the headteacher’s door, a bottle of ginger beer in one hand and a copy of The Perfect Senco in the other*.
Three short months later, the ginger beer has been replaced by a six-cup cafetiere, and The Perfect Senco by a dog-eared copy of the SEND Code of Practice.
Which, for those of you who aren’t in the know (and trust me, I wasn’t), is the special needs equivalent of the Good News Bible.
Quick listen: How misbehaviour can be a sign of language disorder
Want to know more? How attachment issues can affect student behaviour
It’s time for some honesty here.
As a classroom teacher, the Sendco mainly existed to bail me out with difficult children. I would wait for the pearls of wisdom (“what about a reward chart?”), a flurry of diagnostic tests (“have we Boxall-ed him?”) or, in extreme cases, a referral for specialist teaching advice (“have you tried a task management board?”).
How little I knew. Here are some things I have learned very quickly in my short time in the role:
SEND: family links are essential
It has been a humbling experience to learn, after a decade in the classroom, that I am not, as I had previously thought, an expert on the children in my care.
In a few short weeks, I have already had the privilege of working with many wonderful families, some of whom are trying to come to terms with their child’s complex needs, manage and support them at home and liaise with teachers, specialists and medical professionals, as well as learn the complex language of SEND in all its acronymical glory.
I am building relationships with my parents, involving them in steps I am taking and explaining why, and supporting or liaising with them, depending on what they and their children say they need.
There’s a huge amount to remember
Training on autistic spectrum disorder (ASD); speech, language and communication needs (SLCN); and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is widespread now for schools, but there are other, increasingly diagnosed conditions that are difficult to remember the names of, never mind to be able to talk about with authority and understanding.
A very brief survey of my local Sendo network of small schools revealed a long list of diagnoses including Irlen syndrome, dyslexia, dyscalculia, attachment, global developmental delay, pathological demand avoidance (PDA), developmental language disorder, dysgraphia and gender dysphoria.
And then, of course, there’s the fact that these conditions present differently in different children, that children present differently in different settings, that girls can present differently to boys…
It is a complex and ever-changing arena of specialist knowledge that your Sendco is expected to have, or, if not, find out about and sound authoritative about quickly.
School funding issues
As well as a budget per pupil, schools also receive "notional SEN funding", which is used to provide extra support to pupils who need it. Schools are expected to fund up to £6,000 for each pupil out of their notional budget.
In addition, schools can then apply for Higher Needs Funding, which offers up to £9,000 for specified provision outlined per child.
This is an annual grant, and you have to reapply for it each year which, as I have discovered, makes it very difficult to budget for the longer term as there’s no guarantee you’ll get it upon reapplication.
To my surprise, EHCPs (education, health and care plans) rarely come with extra funding. Not even a commission for the amount of time spent putting the paperwork together.
I have learned so much over the past few weeks, and am very aware that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The only thing I’ve been really disappointed by was that Fizzy didn’t involve any drinks with bubbles in it.
*Which, despite the bumptious title, is an excellent read.
@AgentSenco is an experienced teacher with a new role as Sendco. She is based in Kent