How To Become a SENCO
Updated 14 September 2022
If you enjoy helping people of all abilities learn, you might like a career as a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). Being a SENCO can be a very rewarding position for both you and the students you help. Since SENCOs work for public and private schools, they also often receive long holiday breaks and good benefits. In this article, we describe what a SENCO is, what their responsibilities are and how to become a SENCO.
What is a SENCO?
SENCOs also go by other titles, including additional learning needs coordinators (ALNCos), special educational needs and disabilities coordinator (SENDCO) or additional support coordinators. SENCOs work with students who have a wide range of special educational needs, such as:
Learning difficulties of varying degrees
Hearing, visual, or multisensory impairments
Emotional or behavioural problems
Learning disorders such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia
SENCOS learn how to identify the particular requirements of the students in their care and create a supportive and safe environment where the students can thrive. SENCOs ensure students have the human and other resources they need to improve their performance at school and achieve their educationgoals. Additionally, SENCOs work with head teachers and other senior teaching staff to define a school's student care policies. They determine the best strategies, actions and resource provisions for the school's pupils with special educational needs.
What does a SENCO do?
SENCOs have two main types of responsibilities. Some of their responsibilities fulfil a pedagogical function in that they design and execute inclusive actions in the classroom to support students. The other half of a SENCO's responsibilities include various administrative tasks, such as writing individualised reports and keeping detailed records of student progress.
SENCO duties may include:
Creating Special Educational Needs (SEN) strategy. SENCOs often create and implement their classroom or school's SEN policies and procedures.
Advising other teachers. SENCOs guide their colleagues in using resources and learning schemes for students under SEN.
Referring students to other services. Some students may need additional support from specialists outside of their school, including psychologists or speech therapists. A SENCO often provides referrals to the students' parents and builds relationships with these specialists to ensure their students receive comprehensive care.
Reporting on student progress. A SENCO writes progress reports for a student's parents and the school's records. SENCOs may also communicate a student's progress to their parents through in-person meetings.
Updating records. SENCOs document incidents, such as behavioural challenges, within each student's files. They also update records with the results of training strategies for each learner.
Managing budgets. A SENCO either manages or offers advice on the school's SEN budget and resources.
Performing statistical analysis. SENCOs analyse the data from the school's SEN students compared to national statistics. This helps SENCOs evaluate the effectiveness of educational strategies and interventions.
Keeping up-to-date with changes in SEN policies. A SENCO needs to know the latest regulations and tell their colleagues about relevant information or updates.
How to become a SENCO
Pupils with special educational needs depend on SENCOs to ensure their welfare and progress. For this reason, SENCOs face rigorous requirements for employment. Here is how to become a SENCO in three steps:
1. Gain experience
Start building your experience in the field now. You can work as a volunteer or intern in organisations that support students with special educational needs, such as pastoral services, health and social care centres or for a privately practising educational psychologist. Visit schools that enrol SEN students and observe the classes.
Employers in this field value applicants who have a variety of teaching experiences with students from diverse backgrounds. This shows you're knowledgeable about diversity and inclusion and that you'll likely be empathetic to the needs of SEN students. If you're already working as a teacher, try to take on as many leadership roles and get involved with as many extra-curricular activities as your schedule allows.
2. . Become a qualified teacher
You must qualify as an education professional to apply for a SENCO post. By undertaking a bachelor's degree in education, which qualifies you to work as a primary school teacher, you also get Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). If you want to teach higher years, you can complete specialisation programmes in secondary school subjects.
Though this is the most common path to becoming a SENCO, there are other ways to get certified. If you already have a bachelor's degree in any subject, you can enrol in a postgraduate teaching degree. There's a wide range of courses to choose from, both at the degree and diploma level. You can also train in mental health, early childhood education or visual or hearing impairment.
Related: How To Become a Teacher in the UK
3. Receive additional postgraduate qualification
Pass the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination Certificate (NASENCO). Many teachers decide to study for the NASENCO while working part- or full-time. If you're a teacher with special needs experience, you can apply for a SENCO post without this certification, so long as you agree to get the certificate within three years.
Improve your career prospects further by pursuing a master's degree. You may even be able to transfer credits from your NASENCO to cut down the required length of study, depending on your speciality and the date you received certification. You can also get accredited as an Advanced SENCO through the National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership.
Skills for SENCOs
To develop a successful career as a SENCO, you need to complement your training and experience with a specific set of soft skills. Depending on the position you end up in, these might include interpersonal skills, leadership ability or a drive to learn. Here are some skills to develop if you hope to become a SENCO:
Commitment to learning
A commitment and willingness to personal and professional education are crucial for success as a SENCO. In this role, you continuously research special education innovations, uncover valuable data and seek out educational alternatives. You also need to attend conferences, professional meetings and training sessions where you learn about best practices and new developments in the field.
Skills of persuasion
A SENCO needs motivational and negotiation skills to implement SEN policies and procedures in their school. SENCOS must convince school management that the resources and policy changes are worth the investment of time and money and can adequately provide for the student's educational needs. SENCOs also enlist the support of the local community, such as from parents and business leaders, to implement any associated training and support plans effectively.
As a special educational needs coordinator, you become a mentor to your colleagues and the wider school community. Facilitating the learning of children with SEN requires the commitment and support of the entire school, including their homeroom teachers and school administration staff. A SENCO should try hard to inspire everyone with their passion for SEN learning.
SENCOs need excellent interpersonal skills to establish harmonious and beneficial relationships with students, parents, teachers and other educational professionals. In this type of role, you need empathy and a high level of emotional intelligence. In addition, recognise and be sensitive to the needs of pupils with special educational needs.
SENCOs with communication skills have an easier time relating to others and making them feel comfortable. Competent interpersonal skills also offer an advantage when you persuade decision-makers to accept your educational strategies, especially when those plans are innovative or untraditional.
You need to develop unique sets of communication skills for the different people you interact with, like teachers and parents. Additionally, written communication skills are essential for SENCOs, as they write reports and prepare grant applications regularly.
Read more: What Are Communication Skills?
As a busy SENCO, you need to know how to prioritise tasks and manage your time effectively. SENCOs balance many responsibilities in both their daily and long-term schedules. In addition, you must develop efficient filing systems for student records.
Work environment for SENCOs
SENCOs work in public and private schools at all levels of education. You might also have the opportunity to work in alternative educational facilities, such as Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).
A SENCO's workday is often a series of meetings, classroom time, school events and training sessions. SENCOs typically work about 39 hours a week during typical school-day hours. For some events, such as conferences with parents, you may need to work weekends or weekday evenings. You may have to spend your own time creating plans and completing administrative work.
Working as a SENCO allows you to develop leadership skills and strengthen your professional competencies. This career can lead to management positions in both SEN centres and mainstream schools. Some SEN professionals also specialise in diversity and inclusion in the educational sector.
SENCOs with consultancy interests and skills can become educational advisors, guiding SEN strategies in schools or government departments. For example, they might conduct teacher training workshops or liaison between schools and the authorities.
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in the article are affiliated with Indeed.
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