What is a SENCO?


You might be interested in applying for the role of a SENCO at your school. SENCO stands for special educational needs (SEN) co-ordinator. The role is most often included in the senior leadership team.

This article outlines the main responsibilities of the role and links to examples of job description to provide an overview of the role.

What are the key responsibilities of a SENCO?

The SEND Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years explains the duties of local authorities, schools and colleges to provide for those with special educational needs under part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014.

The SEND Code of Practice outlines the role of SENCOs in schools. It explains that governing bodies of maintained mainstream schools and the proprietors of mainstream academy schools (including free schools) must ensure that there is a qualified teacher designated as SENCO for the school. 

The key responsibilities of the SENCO may include:

  • Overseeing the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy
  • Coordinating provision for children with SEN
  • Liaising with the relevant Designated Teacher where a looked after pupil has SEN
  • Advising on the graduated approach to providing SEN support 
  • Advising on the deployment of the school’s delegated budget and other resources to meet pupils’ needs effectively
  • Liaising with parents of pupils with SEN
  • Liaising with early years providers, other schools, educational psychologists, health and social care professionals, and independent or voluntary bodies
  • Being a key point of contact with external agencies, especially the local authority and its support services
  • Liaising with potential next providers of education to ensure a pupil and their parents are informed about options and a smooth transition is planned
  • Working with the headteacher and school governors to ensure that the school meets its responsibilities under the Equality Act (2010) with regard to reasonable adjustments and access arrangements. We’ve written another article about the Equality Act here.
  • Ensuring that the school keeps the records of all pupils with SEN up to date

Who can be a SENCO?

The Code of Conduct states that SENCOs must be a qualified teacher working at the school. A newly appointed SENCO must be a qualified teacher and, where they have not previously been the SENCO at that or any other relevant school for a total period of more than twelve months, they must achieve a National Award in Special Educational Needs Coordination within three years of appointment.

What role do they hold within school?

The SENCO has an important role to play with the headteacher and governing body, in determining the strategic development of SEN policy and provision in the school. They will be most effective in that role if they are part of the school leadership team.

The SENCO has day-to-day responsibility for the operation of SEN policy and coordination of specific provisions made to support individual pupils with SEN, including those who have EHC plans.

The SENCO provides professional guidance to colleagues and will work closely with staff, parents and other agencies. The SENCO should be aware of the provision in the Local Offer and be able to work with professionals providing a support role to families to ensure that pupils with SEN receive appropriate support and high quality teaching.

Can small primary schools share a SENCO?

The SEND Code of Practice explains it may be appropriate for a number of smaller primary schools to share a SENCO employed to work across the individual schools. Schools can consider this arrangement where it secures sufficient time away from teaching and sufficient administrative support to enable the SENCO to fulfil the role effectively for the total registered pupil population across all of the schools involved.

Where such a shared approach is taken the SENCO should not normally have a significant class teaching commitment. Such a shared SENCO role should not be carried out by a headteacher at one of the schools. Schools should review the effectiveness of such a shared SENCO role regularly and should not persist with it where there is evidence of a negative impact on the quality of SEN provision, or the progress of pupils with SEN.

Examples of job descriptions

Hitchin Boys’ School in Hertfordshire has a job description for the SENCO role at the school.

Some of the teaching and learning responsibilities of the role include:

  • Support the identification of and disseminate the most effective teaching approaches for individual pupils with SEN
  • Undertake day-to-day co-ordination of SEN pupils’ provisions through close liaison with staff, parents and external agencies
  • Work with head teachers, teachers, key stage co-ordinators and pastoral staff to ensure all pupils’ learning is of equal importance and that there are high and realistic expectations of pupils

Our Lady of Scion School in West Sussex has a job description for a SENCO. It explains the ‘core purpose’ of the post is that:

“The SENCO, with the support of the Head and Governing body, takes responsibility for the day-today operation of provision made by the school for all pupils with SEN and provides professional guidance in the area of SEN in order to secure high quality teaching and the effective use of resources to bring about improved standards of achievement of all pupils.”

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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