Special needs governors need to:
* have knowledge of current legislation;
* take part in any policy changes and decision-making; l be available to visit school during the working day;
* show concern for staff and pupils;
* report back to other governors regularly;
* develop a mutually supportive role with the SENCO.
How can they do it? Over 12 months, we in Dudley devised a handbook for training for both schools and SEN governors. For governors, it includes references to the statutory requirements of governing bodies for SEN, an explanation of the range of special needs and a guide to the Code of Practice. For schools, it emphasises agreeing a remit for the SEN governor, using practical suggestions on managing the responsibilities of that role. We used a four-section grid as a useful framework, to be dipped into as occasion demands. The first section lists key tasks, such as "preparing for and understanding your role", "becoming familiar with the school SEN policy", "reviewing the policy" and "reporting back to the governing body and to parents".
The second section, entitled Out of School, refers the governor to any documentation, such as Circular 694 from the Department for Education and Employment, that might be needed when reviewing the school's SEN policy.
The third secton gives suggestions on how to find out from the headteacher or SENCO what you need to know, with questions such as: "How does the school ensure that parents are aware of the SEN policy and its availability?", "How does the school measure the SEN policy's effectiveness?" and "Is the funding available sufficient to meet current and future SEN requirements?" The fourth section suggests governor activities, from simply looking at the range of SEN resources available in school to planning purposeful visits for classroom observation.
Throughout the document, the importance of confidentiality is continually emphasised; the SEN governor should really be a faclitator, giving the governing body necessary information and ensuring that special needs pupils receive the support they deserve.
We suggest that training should be ongoing and include headteachers and SENCOs, to join in proper partnership. A two-year rolling programme would make forward planning of visits possible and a structure of support and contact.
There is a continuing need to provide regular updating sessions for SEN governors, especially with inclusion and the revised Code of Practice on the horizon. We want to governors to fulfil Government requirements to be a "challenging friend" to their schools, (The Governor's Role in Raising Standards, DFEE 1998) and to ensure that SEN pupils receive the best possible provision.
JANE COOPER Dudley LEA'straining package was devised by Jane Cooper, learning support co-ordinator, Sharon Hearne, education officer SEN, and Pat Brockman, governor training and support, Learning Support Service, Saltwells EDC, Bowling Green Road, Dudley DY2 9LY
DUDLEY'S HANDBOOK CONTENTS
An introduction: how the training came about.
What are special educational needs? A definition, the Code of Practice.
Special needs in Dudley: principles and policy, provision, support services, funding arrangements, staffing structure.
Roles and responsibilities in school: the headteacher, SENCO and other staff, the governing body, the SEN governor.
How to manage your SEN governor role: identifying the key tasks, confidentiality, a framework for managing the role, including preparation out of school, questions to ask your headteacher and SENCO, suggested activities for school visits.
Putting the theory into practice: a rolling programme.
The role of the SEN governor in special schools.
Appendices: information on DFEE Circular 694, The Annual Report to Parents, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, SEN governor visit sheet, OFSTED, glossary, contact information and useful publications.