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Learning to lead

Richard Cook has been Senco at Yardleys School, Birmingham, for two-and-half years, and before that was Senco for five years at another Birmingham comprehensive. In that time, he says, his role as Senco has changed from managing a case load of special needs children to shouldering a range of responsibilities, including managing a team of teaching assistants; overseeing classroom planning and budgets; monitoring special needs developments; and dealing with senior management.

"My links with senior management, and skill at handling senior managers, are now key," says Cook.

In September 2003, at the instigation of his head teacher, he started the NCSL Leading from the Middle programme, and found himself the only Senco in a group of 16 middle leaders.

"What I enjoy about the course is that it enables me to educate other people about my job," he says. "We have got to move this responsibility out on to the main stage. Sencos have been seen as having the knowledge to deal with special needs, but now we are saying, 'I can teach you to do it.'"

So far, the course has given him not only valuable thinking time, but a new-found confidence.

"At school, I'm beginning to feel I'm more effective in senior meetings, and the head has already commented that she can see a leader, not a manager," says Cook. "Leading from the Middle does it very subtly: altering my perceptions of myself, and helping me lead more effectively."

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