SEN: Ministerial pledge on training for all falls short

4th September 2009 at 01:00
Senco courses still unavailable in three key regions as providers blame excessive bureaucracy

Original paper headline: Ministerial pledge on special needs training for all falls short

Mandatory training for all new special needs teachers, due to start this month, will be unavailable to many - despite political pressure for the courses to begin as soon as possible.

Despite ministers' pledge on a September start, the new accreditation for special needs co-ordinators (Sencos) is still unavailable in large parts of the country even though legal requirements dictate that new Sencos have only limited time in which to complete it.

Only seven courses will start by this October - and there are none at all yet in East Anglia, the North East or the South West. Many teachers will therefore not be able to begin training until January or September 2010.

Potential providers have criticised the bureaucracy surrounding the scheme. For example, a 60-page document they had to fill in was then sent back to them for revisions.

The lack of courses in some regions is being blamed on the Government's insistence that they are run by universities - many older institutions do not provide courses in special needs education.

It was hoped the courses would lead to the formation of local networks of Sencos, but this is now unlikely because the dearth of regional provision means that large numbers of teachers will have to study remotely via the internet.

Lorraine Petersen, chief executive of the National Association of Special Educational Needs, who has been working with the Training and Development Agency for Schools on the introduction of the course, said the delays were "not good".

"But we have to have consistency nationally, which is why the bidding has been rigorous - the last thing we want is for some people to think their course is easier than others elsewhere in England," she said.

"Even if we delayed it for a year, there might still be institutions that were not ready."

At first the course will be available free of charge only to newly appointed Sencos, but the Government does not yet know how many there will be this year. If there is cash left over, those experienced in the job will be offered places.

The course is part-taught online and is meant to take two years, but new Sencos must complete it by September 2011. Modules will earn students credits that can be used in masters courses.

A TDA spokesman said universities would be able to validate courses based in other parts of the country.

"More training providers are set to be announced and we are confident this will be within a number of weeks, so there will eventually be provision around the country," he said.

"We are making good progress in getting other providers on board."

SENCO providers `09: Not a lot to choose from

  • Bath Spa University - from this month
  • University of Bedfordshire - from this month
  • Best Practice Network - from next month
  • Canterbury Christ Church University - from this month
  • Edge Hill University - from next month
  • University of Leeds - from this month
  • Special Educational Needs Joint Initiative for Training, Institute of Education, University of London - Course available now for some local authorities, and 2010 for others.

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