Reforms to SEND practice are being embedded in schools across the country and as teachers take on more responsibility in meeting the needs of all their individual students, the role of the SENCO will be critical to the success of each school.
In 2009, the National Award for SENCOs was launched, aiming to increase the specialist knowledge of the SENCO and provide a professional standard for the role that recognised its strategic importance.
Until last year, there was a centrally funded model with 25 accredited providers across the private and public sector. However, the recent reforms have changed this and schools are now responsible for deciding how best to manage their statutory responsibility to train SENCOs and how best to fund this training. At the same time, providers have greater freedom to develop their offer and respond to the needs of schools.
This means that any provider can now market and deliver this training, but not all courses are created equal – so how best can schools and SENCOs choose their training?
Quality and cost will always be the benchmarks that we need to apply when we choose a training provider, but the education sector has always been at its strongest when it networks and shares experience.
There is simply no substitute for an open and honest conversation among professionals. We all do similar jobs, but in settings that vary widely, it naturally follows that our experiences and needs will vary. Using professional networks to fill in gaps in knowledge and get honest feedback on training strengthens the bonds between SENCOs and schools.
From 2009, Nasen has facilitated the networking of the accredited training providers and educators from all backgrounds and roles during the annual Nasen Live event. This networking also takes place among providers at the event. It has enabled providers to discuss aspects of training common to all and support each other in the successful delivery of the programme.
From September last year, providers have delivered training with a market-driven approach, making Nasen’s continued facilitation of provider networking key to sustaining their commitment to ensuring the high-quality of the training delivery.
Our current partnership role with providers of training is to develop a strategy for working with both existing and new providers. The free-market approach needs some structure and commonality, without sacrificing much-needed personalisation, to ensure that standards are high.
No-one would argue against the need for the sector to be able to access training that is rigorous and quality-assured, especially in an era of reduced frameworks and increased budgetary freedom.
Nasen’s provider group is currently exploring constructive ways of scrutinising the quality of this vital training programme through the development of a set of “core principles” that must be consistent with the specifications of statutory guidance and the SEND Code of Practice. These principles will underpin a workable process that maintains and develops the high standards and requirements of the National Award. Within the principles, providers will be required to provide evidence and exemplars covering programme entry requirements, programme delivery, data, and programme validation and assessment.
The end of centralised funding for this training and the end of accreditation for providers in September 2014 signalled a change in government policy. It was feared by providers that headteachers may be reluctant to fund the training from the school budget and the numbers of SENCOs applying for training places would decrease. However, the numbers enrolled on the training in 2014/15 have not decreased – in fact, training providers have reported that numbers are up. Headteachers have proved that they are willing to pay for this training from school budgets.
The success of training should be measured in different ways, bespoke to each school, but the fundamental areas to judge will always be the improved skills of SENCOs and improved outcomes for students.
Further informationThe National Award for SENCOs: www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-award-for-sen-co-ordination-learning-outcomes
Jane Friswell is the chief executive of Nasen, a UK professional association embracing all SEN. Visit www.nasen.org.uk
Nasen Live 2015 Nasen Live 2015 takes place on May 20 and 21 at the Macron Stadium in Bolton, with a focus on “nine months into reform – early indicators of impact and planning for the year ahead”.Free to attend, the CPD-focused event will have more than 100 specialist providers, charities and consultants together with more than 5,000 SEN professionals. There will be more than 30 seminars addressing a range of training needs as well as free advice and guidance resources available. Seminars include:
Further informationwww.nasen.org.uk/nasen-live2015 Photo: iStock
- High Quality Teaching – Kate Browning, School Improvement for SEN (independent consultant).
- Shaping Practice and Provision for Inclusion and SEN – Malcolm Ashman, co-programme lead for National Award for SENCO.
- SENCO as Coach and Mentor – Alison Wilcox, education development officer, Nasen
- Curriculum Access and Participation for Pupils with SEND – Christopher Robertson, lecturer in inclusive education