Common traits of good SENCos are compassion, diplomacy, and pragmatism. The SENCo's ‘to-do’ list seems self-replicating and most SENCos work tirelessly to balance the needs of pupils, families and staff, whilst concurrently fighting an endless battle with paperwork. SENCos are forever searching for the best ways to support pupils and are constantly reviewing and refining their practice. They are teachers too, so they understand the pressures. That doesn’t mean they aren’t frustrated at times! That doesn't mean they don't want to bang their heads on the wall when their careful work is inadvertently dismantled by an unsuspecting colleague. They often keep their true thoughts to themselves because good relationships in school are better for the children.
Here are some things SENCOs may be thinking but don’t always say out loud!
1. Please read the pupil profiles I send out. They take ages to research and write and are very much part of the planned provision I am hoping will make a difference to the pupils. Please don’t tell me you don’t like to read about your class before you meet them because you like to start afresh. To ensure equity, you need to know what adaptations are needed.
2. Adapting the lesson to meet the needs of your SEN children isn’t going to ‘hold the others back’.
3. Please don’t speak disparagingly about certain pupils and voice your opinion about what they are doing ‘on purpose’, or how ‘lazy’, or unmotivated you think they are. That kind of language primes us to think negatively about pupils. Your negativity will be picked up by other staff. They are children and they are a work in progress. What you say about them probably reflects your own frustrations. Its OK to tell me you are struggling with certain pupils. That is what I am here for.
4. Don’t pounce on TAs to remove pupils from lessons. TAs are often too polite to refuse. They don’t have the pedagogical training you do. They can facilitate learning and support, but you are the teacher and SEN pupils need your good teaching more than other pupils. A planned TA session with key aims and resources works much better when pupils can work outside the classroom in quiet for good reason.
5. Don’t promise parents and carers that I can do an assessment and please don’t try and diagnose SEN yourself. Let me know your concerns and we can work together to try different strategies before deciding what might be going on. Its fine to listen to concerns from parents and carers and just let them know you will talk to me. I have to manage expectations and work within the SEN Code of Practice. I will always do my best to meet families, or observe and assess pupils, but there needs to be evidence first.
6. Please pass on notes from meetings, CAMHS forms, medical information etc. so that I am not on the back foot when looking at a pupil and finding out there is already information in school.
7. SEN pupils are very much part of the class so please plan your lesson with them in mind. They are not an add on, they are not the responsibility of the TA and its not OK if they can’t access the lesson because it isn’t appropriately levelled or scaffolded.
8. Don’t shout at pupils, don’t point at them, don’t shake your head and ask them why they did a behaviour. I have to deal with the aftermath of escalations when children are left confused, angry, and shameful. I know some pupils push our buttons, so call for help from a colleague if you need support. Understanding the triggers and the reasons behind pupil reactions will really help us all to keep them safe and calm.
9. No, I can’t magic support out of thin air. I would love to, and I am as frustrated as you that there isn’t the funding or expertise to support some of our pupils as well as they need to be supported. Timetables take a long time to put in place and if I move TAs, another pupil may be left unsupported. Its like Jenga! Be patient. I am working on it.
10. SEN pupils are not a homogenous group. SEN does not mean ‘low ability’, so please don’t generalise when you are talking about the pupils. They don’t all need the same thing. The label doesn’t tell you what the child is like - see beyond and get to know them. You should know them as well as the TA knows them. Don’t let the label be a barrier. Relationships are key to being sensitive to their needs.
And I do want to get out of my office more. But I have so much paperwork to do!