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Bath Spa University leads the call to legally protect SENCOs’ time

Friday, 30 November, 2018

New research has found that almost three-quarters of Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs) in the UK do not have enough time to sufficiently support pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), leading to a widespread call to legalise the protection of SENCOs’ time.

That’s according to the National SENCO Workload Survey, conducted by Bath Spa University, nasen and the National Education Union (NEU), in order to understand the SENCO role in schools and in particular consider the impact that SENCO workload has on the professional and the school post-2014/15 SEND reforms.

An overwhelming majority (78%) of SENCOs stated that other roles or tasks within their teaching setting routinely pull them away from being able to carry out the SENCO role effectively, while only a quarter of respondents (26%) felt the role they were doing was manageable for one person.

The report has also found that SENCOs are working extra hours to fulfil the demands of the SENCO role, with 43% of primary SENCOs and 71% of secondary SENCOs working in excess of nine extra hours per week on SENCO duties – the equivalent of an additional full working day per week on top of any allocated SENCO time.
Despite 71% of respondents saying that they enjoyed their role as a SENCO most or all of the time, almost a third (30%) of SENCOs stated that they did not intend to be in the same role in five years’ time. Nearly half of those (49%) cited workload as the primary reason for wanting to leave the profession, whilst 45% cited a lack of government funding allocated to SEND support.

As such, almost all (95%) SENCOs surveyed believe they should have legally protected time to enable them to fulfil the demands of the role.

Dr Helen Curran, Senior Lecturer in Education: SEN at Bath Spa University, said: “‘The National SENCO Workload Survey has demonstrated how, in 2018, SENCOs are managing this challenging, yet rewarding, role. However, the survey has also illustrated how a lack of time to execute the role is not only affecting SENCOs, both professionally and personally, but is also impacting on children with SEND. SENCOs are seeking ways in which they can meet the demands of the role, often at a personal cost. Yet, this does not present a sustainable option for SENCOs or children alike. That this why, through the National SENCO Workload Survey, we are seeking protected time for the SENCO role.”

Dr Adam Boddison, Chief Executive at nasen added: “We were delighted to work on this joint project with Bath Spa University and NEU. The overwhelming response to the survey really demonstrates the dedication and commitment of SENCOs. It also highlights the critical importance of the role and why it matters to give them the capacity they need to perform the role effectively. This is an important step for SENCOs nationally, as we begin the discussion around the time SENCOs need to fulfil the demands of the role”.

As well as a call for legally protected time, the report makes a number of other recommendations to the Department of Education (DfE), senior leaders within schools and SENCOs themselves.

Key recommendations

• DfE: SENCOs should have a minimum of one and a half days per week allocated to the role, and where appropriate, SENCOs should have a full, non-contact timetable, depending on the circumstances of the school
• Senior leaders: Senior leaders should review the SENCO role in terms of time and support to encourage experienced SENCOs to remain in post, as well as raise the profile of SENCOs within their schools
• SENCOs: SENCOs should review their job description with their head teacher and SEND governor with a view to determining the amount of protected time they require to facilitate their role

Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary, National Education Union, said: “It is clear from the survey findings that SENCO workload is becoming unmanageable and pupils with SEND are suffering for it. 95% of SENCOs told us that they need adequate protected time to carry out their role which means the Government must fund schools properly so that heads can provide it. The report also highlights the important role of teaching and learning support staff in enabling inclusion in schools.

“Government funding cuts are having a devastating effect as schools face the difficult decision of whether to make savings through redundancies or provide appropriate support for children with SEND. It is a choice they should not have to be making. SENCOs in the survey said they hate not being able to offer all the support they believe students need because of time pressures and funding constraints. It’s time for the Government to listen to the SEND experts.”

The National SENCO Workload Survey focused on how the SENCO role in schools was managed, specifically exploring the time and support SENCOs were able to access to enable them to effectively facilitate their role. More than 1,900 (1,903) SENCOs responded to the survey.

Eighty-five per cent of respondents reported that they work in a state funded, mainstream school in England. There are currently 20,202 state-funded schools in England, which indicates the survey was undertaken by eight per cent of SENCOs in the UK who currently work in state funded, mainstream primary or secondary schools in England.


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