Martin-Denham and Watts: The SENCO Handbook

The following resources are designed to help SENCOs understand and execute their responsibilities. Resources include items to support intervention for children and adolescents experiencing a range of mental health challenges, resources that correspond with a SENCO’s legal duties, and templates designed to help SENCOs asses and enhance their approach. Click the links to download.

The SEN and Disability Regulations (2014) Part 3 Duties on Schools

The SEN and Disability Regulations (2014) Part 3 Duties on Schools: The SEND regulations (DfE, 2014a) require schools to have an SEN information report which must be published on the schools website. The report needs to include information on the kinds of SEN for which provision is made at the school, this is a statutory duty unlike having an SEND policy. The document will be updated following any changes as they occur during the year.  Depending on the quality of your report, it may be useful to look at SEN information reports from other schools in your area.

Example of a short note (possibility of SEN)

Example of a short note (possibility of SEN): There will need to be a structured process in school for teachers and support staff to share concerns when they identify that a child is not making expected progress or where they are regressing and it is felt they may have a SEN. This is sometimes called a ‘short note’ ‘monitoring’ or ‘cause for concern’ and is a means of alerting the SENCO and colleagues to possible SEN, during this process high-quality teaching must be targeted at the child’s area of difficulty, observations, behaviour logs, and individual assessments should be recorded to inform the graduated approach.

Example: SEN support plan

Example: SEN support plan: This plan is more child-centred and seeks to capture a greater amount of information on the child’s views, wishes and aspirations. The child should be encouraged to present their views in whatever format they prefer including drawings, photographs or using technology.

Audit for provision, practice and training

Audit for provision, practice and training: Often SENCOs are overstretched because colleagues are unclear or have misconceptions about their role. If not clarified, this can lead to an increase in your workload and stress impacting on your health and wellbeing. The checklist can serve as a reminder of your role to colleagues and could be useful to discuss with senior leaders to develop an action plan for provision, practice and training.

Self-analysis of key leadership attributes

Self-analysis of key leadership attributes: When working with this table you could add a likert scale to the reflection column and score your self-analysis against a scale of 1-5 or 1-10. Those attributes with low scores could be added to an action plan. This could be shared with a coach or mentor and monitored at regular sessions and a full review completed from time to time with a revised score.  Such development could also, in theory, form part of a practitioner enquiry into your own leadership practice through an action research project.

Child's consent form

Child’s consent form: Gaining verbal consent and the child indicating consent on a form like this shows you have taken appropriate steps to explain your intentions to the child.  Ensure the child has time to reflect on their decision.  No research can begin until all consent is received.

Relevance of intervention/teaching approach checklist

Relevance of intervention/teaching approach checklist: Evidence based practice is when professionals use knowledge and understanding gained from research evaluations of interventions to improve their pedagogical approaches. O’Reilly and Parker (2014: 16) state that the concept of evidence based practice has become synonymous with robustness and quality. Consider the range of interventions you use in your context to support those with mental health needs. What is the evidence base that suggests they are effective and have a positive impact on their emotional wellbeing?

Self-assessment supporting children and families

Self-assessment supporting children and families: In my experience SENCOs who tell me about a child, parent, sibling or member of staff dying is that no-one was prepared or knew what to do.  As Child Bereavement UK (2017a) report 10,061 babies and children (under the age of 25) died in the UK in 2016 – that is 28 every day. It is likely that some of the children who die will have siblings, cousins or friends  and it is important that there is support in place to help them and their families rebuild their lives.

A pupil passport

A pupil passport:  This can be used as a template to show how reasonable adjustments can be made. 

Risk assessment checklist

Risk assessment checklist: All schools will have risk assessment systems and procedures, consider the following when filling out the form:

  1. What are the possible hazards? (children, environment, security, safety, equipment)
  2. Who might be affected and how?
  3. What are the likely ‘risky’ behaviours that will arise?
  4. What is the level of risk (low, medium or high) and what can be done as preventative measures?
  5. Have I consulted with staff, caregivers and the child(ren)?
  6. Have I produced a written plan?
  7. How will the plan be evaluated?

Debrief template

Debrief template: This template can be used for formal debriefs and can be used as a means to analyse causes for behaviours which result in children being removed from classrooms and then ‘sent’ to you as SENCO or other members of staff.  By requiring a debrief staff will be incentivised to implement support strategies rather than complete forms and attend meetings.  

Child voice checklist

Child voice checklist:  The voice of the child should not just be captured for the purpose of EHCP or SEN support but to inform provision and practice for all children. A member of staff is responsible for coordinating child voice across the school and ensuring the participation of school leaders, governors and members of the local community.

Individual transition plan

Individual transition plan: Any transition can provoke anxiety in children from entering school, changing for PE, queueing for lunch, moving around corridors and going home. The transition to a new school is particularly difficult for some children and requires meticulous planning, information sharing, home-school and school-school liaison.  As SENCO you will need to use person centred approaches to provide bespoke packages which focus on the holistic needs of the child to enable them to move from one activity or stage to another with as little disruption and anxiety as possible. An individual transition plan can help with this. 

Template: Assessing competency across modes of working

Template: Assessing competency across modes of working:  The role of the SENCO is often pivotal in assigning individual support staff to work across specific modes. Recognising the strengths and weaknesses of individuals will ensure that children are optimally supported and that support staff are utilising their skills, as well as given the opportunity to build skills in different modes. This template is intended for use by SENCOs, in exploring individuals’ skills and abilities to work across each of the three modes associated with the support staff role. It can be used during a review meeting to highlight areas of success and areas for improvement.

Template: Assessing the efficacy of an intervention

Template: Assessing the efficacy of an intervention:  This template is intended to be used by SENCOs/relevant staff members in exploring the effectiveness of current interventions. It will serve as a useful note-taking prompt during observations of intervention sessions.

Strategy for introducing a coaching and mentoring culture

Strategy for introducing a coaching and mentoring culture:  Ideally, schools and colleges will have a well-established mentoring and coaching culture that is embedded into the day to day operation of the institution. Where this is in place, developing a mentoring and coaching approach to work as a SENCO will be potentially more straight forward than if you are working in an institution where there is no such culture. Even so, such a situation does not prevent you as SENCO from introducing a mentoring and coaching culture amongst your SEND colleagues. One way to achieve this is through the Jones and Gorrell’s (2018: 158-166) four phase strategy. 

Ten-step approach to introducing a coaching and mentoring culture

Ten-step approach to introducing a coaching and mentoring culture: Jones and Gorrell (2018: 166-168) also offer a ten stage model for introducing a coaching culture, which if adopted would support you as a SENCO in introducing a coaching culture. By using a model, such as the four or ten stage models outlined above, perhaps with the support of a mentor, introducing a coaching/mentoring culture would be more structured in its approach, which would support you as SENCO enormously in the process.