Governors: responsibilities of all governing bodies

29th October 1999 at 01:00
Each governing body has responsibility to:

* do its best to see that all children with special educational needs are identified and that their individual needs are being catered for;

* ensure that, wherever possible, pupils with SEN take part in everyday activities;

* make sure that all teachers are aware of identifying SEN and providing appropriate teaching;

* check that all staff likely to teach children with SEN are aware of their needs;

* include in the annual report admission arrangements for disabled pupils, a description of the SEN policy and its implementation. Check that this is also in the prospectus;

* inform the local authority annually how many SEN pupils have all or part of the national curriculum disapplied;

* monitor the school's funding of SEN, checking that it is in line with local authority policy;

* admit pupils whose statement of SEN names their school, unless they can show reasons to the contrary;

* have regard to the Code of Practice in everything the school and governors do.

The government Code of Practice on special needs recommends that a named governor or committee is made responsible for liaising with the special educational needs co-ordinator in their school, to carry out these legal duties.

Most governing bodies choose one governor to carry most or all of this responsibility. This is not necessarily the best solution, says Joan Sallis, governor guru and TES columnist.

"It can detract from corporate responsibility." she says.

"If one governor is appointed, they need to be careful not to do anything which lets other governors duck out of their share of the responsibility. They also need to be careful not to drift into an overly cosy relationship with one member of staff, forgetting their key role as 'critical friend', the one who asks the necessary questions."

Questioning is, in fact, the governors' main tool for carrying out their duties.

"They need to make sure that they constantly revisit SEN," says Mrs Sallis.

"They need to question themselves, too. It's really important that everyone knows we grow up in a world of special needs and that the governing body as a whole tries to get it right."

If schools and governors are in accord, perhaps the best way for an individual governor to oversee a school's provision of special needs is to arrange to "shadow" their SENCO for a while. Regular meetings, attendance at case conferences, participation in correspondence, may all be part of school-governor liaison.

It can become quite onerous, says Ursula Murray, formerly special needs governor at a north London primary school. And not just because of the workload: "Parents keep coming up to you in the playground thinking you can get their child extra help in the classroom. Which, of course, you can't."

Each week in the Briefing section of 'The TES' there are two pages for governors

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