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A school’s SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) is a vital component of modern learning environments. They take responsibility for supporting SEN pupils throughout their time at school and their workload is varied and challenging.

Since 2009, all newly-qualified SENCOs have been required to take the National Award for SENCOs within three years of taking up a relevant post. Completing this initial training is enough to prepare SENCOs for their challenging role, but, as with all teaching positions, training is ongoing.

So, how do you identify what training opportunities might be useful to your SENCO?

Talk to them about their experiences

This may sound like an obvious suggestion, but it’s often the case that SENCOs feel isolated and unable to articulate which aspects of their role are proving to be the most challenging.

One of the best ways to tease out these issues is simply to have a frank discussion where the sole aim is to discover what barriers they are finding in their day-to-day work, and try to find solutions for specific problems.

While the National Award for SENCOs covers a comprehensive range of issues, it is limited in time and scope, and SENCOs may not have had the opportunity to develop core skills that were previously lacking. Identifying which skills need improving can then help you find relevant training opportunities that are most suited to your setting.

There are a number of training providers that offer courses with modules that focus on specific areas of SEN provision. The modular nature of these qualifications will enable your SENCO to create an individual learning pathway that can help them gain expertise and fill any gaps in their knowledge.

Training providers include:

Real Training
Creative Education
Concept Training
The Education and Training Foundation

Don’t be limited by SENCO-specific training

Often, headteachers can feel limited by the number of training opportunities specifically targeted at SENCOs. The solution to this is to look beyond those opportunities and target training that will benefit your SENCO in the ways they have already identified as areas in need of support.

These could be courses aimed at strategic planning, for instance, or how to develop the skills needed to best support their colleagues through effective management. 

Once you start to look at options for courses like these, don’t feel constrained by those directed solely at the educational sector. Other providers can develop the skills without a necessary focus on their educational applications.

Identify local opportunities

Many areas have courses and groups designed to support SENCOs in their work. These may involve workshops or guest speakers which allow SENCOs to develop skills amongst their colleagues.

There are also opportunities available for SENCOs to further their knowledge of specific SEN issues. These are often run by local charities focused on a particular disability or illness. Participating in one of these can enhance a SENCO’s knowledge of that area which can positively impact their work.

Locate online support

Don’t discount the impact that online support can have on your SENCOs. Look for SEN-specific forums, such as the DfE SENCO forum and the TES SEN forum.

Not only do these provide a support network for SENCOs to discuss issues and offer advice, they also help them identify their own skills gaps and opportunities for improvement.

Encouraging SENCOs to make the most of these forums – especially if there are few nearby schools with SENCOs – can be very helpful in reassuring them that there is a wider support network that they can access.

You may also find it beneficial to register your SENCO as a member of nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) as they offer additional support and resources for their members.