I read this article this morning and I saw red. I saw really, really red and decided to write.
I think it’s important I caveat this rant by saying that I agree with some of the sentiment behind the article: all teachers are teachers of SEN. However, conflating being a teacher of SEN with the role of SenCo is unhelpful at best and utterly disrespectful of specialised professional knowledge and legal responsibility at worst.
The role of SenCo is one of only two school-teacher roles described in statute: it and the Head Teacher are compulsory in maintained schools. The SenCo must be qualified to Masters level, must be a qualified teacher and has legal responsibilities linked to external exams and EHCPs. To suggest then that every teacher takes on this role is just flippant and risks trivialising the role, which already is poorly understood by many teachers.
However, the notion that appears to underpin the article is spot on; that all teachers ae responsible for ensuring that high quality teaching that meets their pupils’ needs is spot on. This is often undertaken with the support and guidance from the SenCo and may be aided by Teaching Assistants or with other specialist input. It is here that teachers may struggle. Teachers report that training relating to SEN is insufficient and cite this as a reason to avoid working with pupils with SEN.
I’ve been a SenCo and found that some staff members do not do their part for pupils with SEN. I also found that some of my colleagues would have moved mountains to meet their pupils’ needs. The common theme for all of these professionals was that they felt they did not know how to best meet need and I did not have resources, both in terms of staffing and time, to always provide the level of guidance that I would have liked to. This is a common theme in schools. But supporting teachers’ practice through ongoing professional support and CPD as a SenCo is not the same as working to meet the needs of children in your class. SenCos, who develop intervention programmes and chair EHCP meetings, liaise with other professionals and are accountable for progress of children with SEN is not the same as class teachers producing differentiated resources for teaching as teachers of SEN.
I have beef with many assumptions in education but underplaying the legal significance of SenCos is up there as one that makes me cross. As professionals, we don’t necessarily need to know the minutiae of each others’ roles but we need to understand how they fit into the bigger picture. I worry that articles like Collin Harris’ undermine that understanding and create unnecessary pressure on both SenCos and Class Teachers.