Almost three-quarters of special educational needs coordinators (74 per cent) say they do not have enough time to support fully pupils with less severe special educational needs, according to new research.
And this is despite half of Sendcos (50 per cent) working the equivalent of at least an extra day a week to keep up with the demands of what one union official says is becoming an "unmanageable" job.
Tes has had exclusive access to results from a survey of more than 1,900 Sendcos carried out by the NEU teaching union, Bath Spa University and special needs charity Nasen.
Pupils with less severe special needs, identified as pupils on SEN Support, account for four in five pupils with SEND, and there is growing concern that they are losing out as pressure on budgets focuses support towards those pupils with the most severe needs who have the legal protection of education, health and care plans (EHCP).
But the survey shows that as well as 74 per cent of Sendcos saying they did not have enough time to ensure that pupils with SEN Support were getting the provision they needed, 59 per cent also said they felt they hadn’t enough time to ensure provision was in place for pupils with EHCPs.
The survey also reveals the pressure that Sendco are under. Overall, 70 per cent said they did not have enough time to meet the demands of the role and 78 per cent said they were routinely pulled away to deal with other tasks – while one in six (16 per cent) said they did an additional 24 hours or more a week, on top of their allocated Sendco time.
“I don’t think any of the senior leadership team realise how big a job the Sendco is,” said one respondent to the survey. “Splitting yourself into a million pieces (the biggest being a full-time class teacher) and managing SEN is extremely hard. I would say once a half term, I feel completely overwhelmed.”
Being a Sendco 'is upsetting and very frustrating'
By law, all mainstream schools must appoint a Sendco who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school’s special educational needs and disability (SEND) policy and coordinating provision for pupils with SEND. But there is no specified time set aside for Sendcos to fulfil their duties.
The survey shows that the most common amount of time given to Sendcos per week was 0.5 to 1 day in primary (19 per cent of primary SENCOs got this) and 3 to 3.5 days in secondary (18 per cent of secondary SENCOs got this).
But the survey shows that 5 per cent of secondary Sendcos had no allocated time at all.
Of those who worked extra hours, 87 per cent said they fitted them in after school, 73 per cent worked in the holidays and 48 per cent spent some of the weekend working.
Almost a third (30 per cent) of Sendcos said they did not intend to be in the same role in five years’ time – workload and lack of funding were given as the main reasons for wanting to leave the role.
“I love being a Sendco,” one respondent said. “But I just don’t know if I can cope with the level of stress for a long period of time. It’s a very frustrating, upsetting role. It’s our job to support vulnerable children and we very often can’t.”
The report’s authors are calling for Sendco time, of at least one-and-a-half days per week, to be protected by law – and for the funding to be provided to schools to allow this.
Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the NEU, said: “It is clear from the survey findings that Sendco workload is becoming unmanageable and pupils with SEND are suffering for it.
"Ninety-five per cent of Sendcos told us that they need adequate protected time to carry out their role, which means the government must fund schools properly so that heads can provide it.
"Sendcos in the survey said they hate not being able to offer all the support they believe students need because of time pressures and funding constraints. It’s time for the government to listen to the SEND experts.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We welcome this report and will carefully consider its findings and recommendations and recognise the pivotal role that Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators play in schools in supporting children and young people with SEND. We are currently developing resources specifically to support Sendcos including top tips and tools for school leaders to help them address Sendco workload challenges.
“We are also committed to reducing teacher workload more broadly and are taking action to lessen the pressures on teachers and school leaders.”