Paperwork stopping SENCOs from doing their jobs

Too much admin is keeping special educational needs co-ordinators from supporting children, according to new research.

A survey of SENCOs from Bath Spa University, in collaboration with nasen, has found that three-quarters (74 per cent) of special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) are being pulled away from supporting pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), to fulfil administrative demands and unrelated duties during allocated ‘SENCO’ time. 

Nearly three quarters of SENCOs (74 per cent) cited administrative tasks as taking up the majority of their allocated SENCO time, up from 71 per cent in last year’s survey.

Just 22 per cent of SENCOs in the early years said they had been allocated more time to fulfil their role in 2019/2020 than the previous year, but slightly fewer (16 per cent) said their allocation had dropped this academic year.

In comparison to 2018/2019, 49 per cent of early years SENCOs said they had been allocated the same amount of time to facilitate the role in 2019/2020.

Over 1,800 individuals contributed to the survey, from across early years, primary and secondary settings.

As a result of the findings, Bath Spa University and nasen have called for an end to administrative demands on SENCOs and the development of a single, national template the needs assessment process and for Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.

The report’s full recommendations include:

  • A review of the SEND Code of Practice in relation to SENCO role: SENCOs should have protected time to enable the effective facilitation of their role and it should be a statutory requirement that the SENCO is a member of the school senior leadership team.

  • A review of the SEND Code of Practice in relation to provision for children: The legal definition of SEN should be reviewed in light of the rapid development in sector understanding regarding neuro-diversity, as well as the changing demographic of our school population.

  • The development of consistent, effective SEN provision nationally: To develop consistency of practice across local authorities and reduce administrative demands, a single, national template should be developed for EHC plans.

  • The facilitation of the SENCO role in educational settings: The Department for Education should provide sufficient funding for the SENCO role for every school in the country, SENCOs should be given additional administration support and they should be placed on the leadership pay scale. 

Helen Curran, senior lecturer in education: SEN at Bath Spa University, said, ‘This new research has demonstrated how SENCOs are being overloaded with needlessly complicated administrative tasks – which risks impacting on children with SEND and the level of support that they receive. We believe that SEN processes and practices across local authorities should be urgently reviewed to re-evaluate non-statutory paperwork requirements – and to develop a consistency of practice across all local authority areas.'

Adam Boddison, chief executive at nasen, added, ‘We were delighted to work on this joint project with Bath Spa University, further expanding on last year’s report. These findings ignite an important discussion around the additional demands on SENCOs, and highlights the need to re-define their role, as well as reduce paperwork and provide greater support with administration.’

The SENCO Workload Survey report is available here

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