Top tips for SENCOs

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If you’re an Early Years SENCO, you’re in a position to make a huge difference to the children and families you work with as well as empowering colleagues and influencing practice within your setting.  However, there can be challenges for every SENCO and the start of a new term provides an ideal opportunity to reflect on your role.   These tips should help:

  1. Does your SENCO job description need reviewing? It’s best to do this on an annual basis, alongside regular supervision which is a statutory requirement of the EYFS.  SENCOs can only fulfil their role effectively if they have support from their line manager, this should include being given non-contact time.
  2. Ensure all practitioners within the setting understand their role in identifying and meeting the needs of children with SEND. You might like to use this twenty minute true/false webinar I recorded as a staff development tool which takes you through the statutory requirements.
  3. The information you gather from parents/carers as part of your induction process is invaluable in supporting the Key Person to identify a child’s interests and stage of development, so take time to reflect on this process. Does it provide the evidence you need? Taking time to build up trust will also help if you need to raise concerns about a child’s development at a later stage.
  4. Think about how you organise paperwork for children with SEND in your setting. Are your colleagues aware of what’s involved in the Graduated Approach and are they familiar with the targets/outcomes set for individual children they are working with?
  5. Do your colleagues have a good understanding of typical child development? This is essential if they are to identify possible delays in a child’s development.  This A4 poster from the charity Contact a Family provides a quick overview and you can use the Early Years Outcomes and the Every Child a Talker Monitoring Tool.  Once a term, I’d recommend that you ask each Key Person if they have concerns about any child’s development and offer support around further observations and assessments.
  6. Are you aware of sources of further support for yourself, colleagues and parents/carers? Your online Local Offer provides information about voluntary and statutory services available for families, including referral forms and criteria. You can find your Local Offer here.
  7. Are you aware of sources of funding for children with SEND who attend your setting? If children are in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) you can access the Disability Access Fund which is £615 per year. Further information will be available from your Local Authority.  Each Local Authority should also have an Inclusion Fund; you can find further information about this here.
  8. Do you link with other setting-based SENCOs? This can provide you with invaluable opportunities to discuss local referral systems and issues and perhaps pool budgets to organise CPD. Local professionals might consider speaking for no cost if you can gather together enough SENCOs to justify their time, there’s no harm in asking!  
  9. Access free online SEND training from organisations such as NDNA and NASEN. I’d also recommend following Foundation Years on Twitter or Facebook as they post regular updates.
  10. Most importantly, remember that your role as SENCO is to support and advise colleagues. It’s not to do everything for them. The child’s Key Person has far more knowledge of the child than you and they will have built up a partnership with the parent/carer.

Have a wonderful term and, at times of stress, try to remember how lucky we are to work in an environment which is never boring, where we have the power to literally turn a life around and set a child and family on the road to success. 

About the author

me2Kathryn is a specialist early years teacher and trainer who has worked with children for nearly 25 years, including 10 years as an Area SENCO. She is an ELKLAN Speech and Language Trainer and regularly writes and delivers courses for early years practitioners on all aspects of SEND.  You can follow her on Twitter @kathrynstinton2, find her on Facebook or visit her website for more information.

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