Why trust is more important than ever for Sendcos

Ginny Bootman reflects on the importance of interacting with parents to provide SEND support during lockdown

Ginny Bootman

Trust is key for SENCOs, and the coronavirus crisis has only underlined this need more than ever

When I think of what it means to be trustworthy as a Sendco I think it comes back to three things: reliability, honesty and transparency. 

This has very much been the case in the past few weeks.

As soon as it was announced that schools would be closing my mother hen attitude seemed to kick in with regard to the families I work alongside.

I have such a strong bond with these families that it was essential to keep the lines of communication as open as possible. 

Discussing options

This began with chats in the playground and moved on to informative emails and then one-to-one phone calls to discuss precise logistics regarding the concept of educating children at home.

It is such a fine line between caring for these children and families without being overly intrusive. My aim is always to make sure that families feel supported and the children feel valued and safe.

The systems that have really worked are well thought through and yet simple to instigate. If I am considering phoning a parent I always gauge their view on this by emailing first. 

Some parents like a phone call, while others prefer emails, and it’s important to respect their choice. It would really unnerve me to get a phone call out of the blue from my son’s class teacher asking me how I am getting on with educating him at home. 

Yet if I was invited to join a phone call then the choice would be in my hands. Choice is crucial.

Engaging activities

On this point I have also asked parents if they would like interventions sent home which can be administered by an adult easily due to the repetitive nature of the work.

These have been really positively acknowledged. Once again I think it is because there is an element of choice from the people involved.

I also am very sensitive to how parents and pupils may wish to engage in school life in a remote setup. 

Again, talking to parents I am able to ascertain the best way for children with additional needs to communicate with their class teacher.

Recently, through a discussion with a parent, I found out that one individual would rather not share work via the school Facebook page but would feel comfortable sending it via email. Once again a simple tweak which means so much to one individual.

These adjustments cost nothing and yet mean so much to both parents and children. It is giving these options which the parents appreciate.

Do this right and the positive outcomes are clear to see. 

I was recently sent a video by a parent of a child undertaking an intervention that was lovely to see for two reasons:

  • Firstly you can see how much the child is enjoying the work they are doing.
  • Secondly, the parents feel proud enough that they want to share it with me. That is empowering for everyone involved.

Taking time to learn

So what am I learning as an educator from this whole experience?

I am learning to listen to the parents of my children. When I say "listen", I mean listen and internalise what they are telling me about their children.

One parent has told me about how her son is thriving at home because the atmosphere is so calm and there is less noise to put him on high alert. 

I know now that in order for that individual to thrive fully in a school setting, this needs to be replicated. I also know that the interventions I am providing are enjoyed by children whether they undertake these at home or school. 

This shows me that these short daily bursts of support are the way forward. Once again, I need to think about how this model can be used more widely to support more children. 

Children like space, calmness and activities split into small parts. They like to see the end. Don’t we all?

The relationship I have with the parents of my children with additional needs is based on trust. We know one another and moreover we know these children and want what is best for them.

Where there is trust there is hope.

Ginny Bootman is a speaker on the subjects of looked-after children and the role of empathy in the classroom. She is a Sendco at Evolve Church Academy, Northamptonshire. She tweets as @sencogirl

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