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Take it from the top

Tricia Barthorpe suggests a 'helicopter approach' to the paperwork.

As special needs co-ordinators attempt to come to terms with all the new requirements of the Code of Practice, as well as the existing paperwork of their role, it is worth taking the "helicopter approach" and rising above, in order to assess both quantity and priority.

The following list of documents will not mean much to an outsider but could become a pressure nightmare for the busy SENCO trying to complete them alongside many other tasks asked of him or her in a busy school: * Provision for SEN in the school prospectus * Special needs policy for the school * Special needs budget for the school * Criteria for success of the SEN policy * Annual governors report on SEN * Parental liaison forms for stages of the Code * Minutes of any meetings with parents * Special needs register * Expression of concern (stage 1) * Individual education plans - IEPs (stage 2) * Reviews of individual education plans * Individual education plans (stage 3) * Review of individual education plans * Outside agency case conference meetings and minutes * Referrals for statements (stage 4) * Statementing papers * Annual reviews * Transition plans (14-plus pupils) * School reporting and recording documentation * Records of SEN in-service training for all staff * Stock lists of differentiated SEN resources for loan * Clause 13 - namely other tasks management believe to be SEN In prioritising the paperwork the first task needs to be an audit of the tasks. While one could be forgiven for thinking that time spent on this could have been spent on actually doing some of the paperwork, the audit serves three useful purposes.

The audit focuses on the task: it clarifies thinking as to the extent of the task and informs the SENCO of the exact numbers of specific tasks, for example 42 IEPs, 5 statements, 5 annual reviews, etc.

The audit provides a supply of data to inform: it provides a useful document for arguing your corner for timeresources with senior management, governors, etc.

The audit acts as both an awareness raising and communication aid: Given to the correct staff, both teaching and non-teaching, it allows them to know when data will be required and on whom. Secretaries can plan around particular annual reviews, non-teaching staff should know when to hand in data for meetings and your teaching colleagues appreciate your workload. The audit then needs translating into the calendar and on to the timetable for action.

To produce meaningful paperwork of a high quality that is beneficial to pupils requires planning, preparation and maintenance. All or some of these items of paperwork may be shared with other professional agencies and could become part of legal and binding documents.

Priority of time and objective writing showing needs, strategies, targets and outcomes will allow SENCOs to undertake their role of co-ordination and the paperwork will accurately inform all those involved with the individual.

Tricia Barthorpe, head of SENSS in North Lincolnshire, will give a talk on Prioritising the Paperwork at 10 am on November 5 at Special Needs London 96, at the Business Design Centre, London N1

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