FAQs: Secondary SEND

Written by: Daniel Sobel | Published:
Image: iStock

Inclusion expert Daniel Sobel answers three questions he often encounters in his work

Q: Does my school have to financially account for each individual Pupil Premium student?

Officially, no. The Pupil Premium regulations do not require you to record spending per individual recipient, but you are required to account for how much money has come in overall, how many eligible students your school has, and what you spend the funds on.

I suggest mapping this on a simple four-column table: identified need – action taken – impact – cost. This format makes financial accounting just one part of creating an outstanding map of provision, which can be monitored and referred back to. So while you are not mandated to financially account for each individual, I would argue that best practice is to map-out identified need against action and measure of impact. If you are already doing this, all it takes is a quick meeting between the SENCO and business manager to cost each intervention and add-in financial accounting too.

Q: The SEND team is overrun with files and paperwork. Can we get past this?

I advocate the use of a 15-page-a-minute scanner (costs about £50) and one day of admin time to upload all SEND files onto your computer system. I recommend you store them in files hyperlinked to a provision map.
Most of these documents are genuinely irrelevant – especially when they are stuck at the back of a huge file.

A significant current problem for many schools’ SEND is that there is too much information – and the important stuff tends to get lost.

The challenge – which requires skill and training – is to be able to wade through the forest of paper and sift out the key information. In general, this should be three to five bullet points of advice for teachers and support staff for each child.

Possibly the worst use of a SENCO’s time is in endless paperwork and never-ending meetings. To overcome this danger in one school, I established one teaching assistant as a lead for all paperwork as well as the coordinator for all other teaching assistants. The SENCO’s role was then to check, clarify and, where necessary, add sentences and paragraphs that had been agreed as best coming from the SENCO. This freed the SENCO and fostered a more nuanced understanding.

In another school, I established one teaching assistant to be in charge of all forms of assessment. Eventually she gained a qualification to carry out access arrangements. The teaching assistant taking care of the technical and administrative aspects of carrying out assessments meant that the SENCO could concentrate on problems that arose. It is too easy for a SENCO to waste endless amounts of time filling in forms which tell you nothing more than what you know already and then not have enough time to address the real problems.

Q: How can we show that we are doing everything possible for a challenging SEN student?

When I sit as an expert witness on exclusion tribunals I find schools falling into a number of pitfalls. Most critically, schools don’t make clear the essential formula – what the identified need was, how they responded, and what the impact was. If the impact was negative, well, that happens, but it is a serious failing if you do not have a measure of what you tried.

It is important to focus on how you train staff and try a variety of strategies in the classroom. This ensures you are in line with Waves 1, 2 and 3, as well as the requirements of Ofsted and the SEND Code of Practice.

Don’t take the decision on your own. Seek outside agency advice and agreement from as many sources as possible. Record the minutes of these meetings and add them to the bundle. Include plenty of student feedback too, and never include information that vilifies a child, such as records and materials that add nothing to the case and simply attack their character.

Remember that managed moves nearly always mean offloading the problem onto someone else and don’t assume that a permanent exclusion automatically triggers local authority support. It often doesn’t. You need to pick up the phone.

  • Daniel Sobel is founder of Inclusion Expert, which provides SEND and Pupil Premium reviews, training and support with all forms of inclusion. Visit www.inclusionexpert.com


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