What does working as a special educational needs and disabilities coordinator (Sendco) involve? For the dry detail, you could read the SEND Code of Practice.
This document sets out various Sendco responsibilities, which include (among other things) overseeing the day-to-day operation of the school’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) policy, coordinating provision for children with SEND, advising on how best to fund SEND provision and liaising with parents.
But researchers at the National Education Union, Bath Spa University and special needs charity Nasen, wanted to know what working as a Sendco was really like.
And their survey of 1,900 Sendcos found a group of people who felt that however long they worked, they were still too stretched to fulfil their responsibilities – and were desperate to be heard.
“I love being a Sendco, but I just don’t know if I can cope with the level of stress for a long period of time,” said one respondent. “It’s a very frustrating, upsetting role. It’s our job to support vulnerable children and we very often can’t.”
The SEND Code of Practice states: “The school should ensure that the [Sendco] has sufficient time and resources to carry out these functions.”
But 70 per cent of Sendcos said they did not have the time to meet the demands of the role, although half were working the equivalent of a day a week in their own time.
And fewer than a third of Sendcos planned to be in the role in five years’ time.
The report calls for the Sendco role to have legally protected time – suggesting a minimum of 1.5 days per week.
There are precedents for such a move – a minimum of 10 per cent of planning, preparation and assessment time was introduced in 2005 for all classroom teachers. And there is pressure to extend the additional 10 per cent reduction in teaching hours that newly qualified teachers get in their first year into the proposed second year of a two-year induction period.
Interestingly, when the DfE consulted on extending the induction period, it was supporting pupils with SEND that young teachers were most interested in focusing on in those first two years.
And it would be a shame if, at a time when it seems that non-contact hours could be used to help retain teachers as they start out, those who then step up as Sendcos whether five, 10 or 20 years later are still left stranded in the current system.
It is a system that is increasingly burning through the goodwill of teachers who don’t want to see children left without any support. But they are still expected to make do and carry on, until they can’t any more.