ERG SES D 05, Special Education
2014 is a significant year for Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) in England, as it is the 20th anniversary of the creation of their role, which was established in the first Special Education Needs (SEN) Code of Practice (DfE, 1994). This stated that all mainstream schools must have a person responsible for coordinating services around children with SEN and helping teachers develop and implement appropriate provision for them. Since 1994, the SENCO role in the UK has changed as various policies continually redefined SEN provision (DfES, 2001; DCSF, 2004).
A similar role exists in some other European countries such as Sweden and Ireland (Lindqvist, 2013; O'Gorman and Drudy, 2010), whilst in other European countries, such as Italy, an introduction of the SENCO role is currently under discussion (Devecchi et al., 2012). This research is particularly relevant in a European context in view of the present European moves towards inclusion for children with SEN, also the call for teachers to be more proactive in addressing social inclusion and tackling underachievement and early school leaving (EADSNE 2012).
Moreover, the issue is timely now that the intended legislation in England, ‘The Children and Families Bill’ (DfE, 2013a) lays out landmark reforms to SEN provision, which are further underpinned by a new SEN Code of Practice (DfE, 2013b). Both legislative articles are expected to receive Royal Assent in Spring 2014, and be implemented in schools from September 2014. One major implication for the role of the SENCO will be the introduction of a family-centred system in which the collaboration of Support Services across Education, Health and Care will be required to support the early identification and assessment of children with SEN from birth to 25 years. (DfE, 2013c) This research project is therefore constructed within the past, present and future of SEN initiatives in England at a time of major overhaul of the principal guidance for the inclusion for children with SEN in mainstream schools.
This paper draws upon my doctoral research data gathered through questionnaires and interviews relating to the impact that SENCOs have on teachers’ capacity to address SEN in their classrooms. Since SENCOs are central to supporting children’s inclusion and achievement, the research centres around three specific research questions:
- Are SENCOs able to motivate teachers to take the initiative in addressing the needs of children with SEN in their classrooms?
- Do SENCOs enhance teachers’ abilities to become effective teachers of children with SEN?
- How is the impact of SENCOs currently assessed within primary schools?
SENCOs have been documented as ‘agents of change’ in relation to schools’ visions and values, and as primary advocates for the needs and rights of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools (Morewood, 2011). As opposed to the more tacit roles that SENCOs initially undertook around the early 1990s, the SENCOs’ current role is evolving into one that is more empowered, not only at the senior management level, but one that has a greater degree of recognition by teachers and other members of school staff. (Tissot, 2013)
The theoretical framework of the project is that of interpretivism, since I “...(begun) with individuals and set out to understand their interpretations of the world around them... (and) particular situations.” (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2011, p. 18). I also believe that through an interpretivist approach, I acknowledged the various ‘relative-ness’ of diverse elements and social issues that impact upon my research findings. As Robson (2002, p. 24) maintains, “what (people) actually do, has to be interpreted in the light of (their) underlying ideas, meanings and motivations.”
British Educational Research Association (BERA). (2004) Revised Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research. Nottinghamshire: BERA. Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2011) Research Methods in Education. 7th Ed. London: Routledge. Creswell, J., and Plano Clark, V. (2007) Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research. London: Sage. Council of the European Union (CEU). (2009) Council Conclusions of 12 May 2009 on a Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in Education and Training (ET2020) (2009/C 119/02) [Online] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2009:119:0002:0010:EN:PDF [Accessed 5th January 2014] Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). (2004) Removing Barriers to Achievement. London: DCSF. Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). (2009) The Education (SENCOs) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2009. London: DCSF. Department for Education (DfE). (1994) Code of Practice for the Identification and Assessment of SEN. London: DfE. Department for Education (DfE). (2013a) Children and Families Bill. [Online] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/children-and-families-bill-2013 [Accessed 5th January 2014] Department for Education (DfE). (2013b) Indicative Draft: The (0-25) Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. [Online] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/special-educational-needs-sen-code-of-practice-and-regulations [Accessed 5th January 2014] Department for Education (DfE). (2013c) The Draft SEN Code of Practice. (2013, November 29th). [PowerPoint slides]. Presented by Stephen Kingdom, Deputy Director, SEN and Disability Division at a NASEN Learning Event. [Online] http://www.nasen.org.uk/uploads/publications/293.pdf [Accessed 5th January 2014] Department for Education and Skills (DfES). (2001) The Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice. London: DfES. Devecchi, et al. (2012) Inclusive Classrooms in Italy and England: The Role of Support Teachers and Teaching Assistants. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 27 (2): 171-184. European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education (EADSNE). (2012). Raising Achievement for All Learners – Quality in Inclusive Education. Brussels: EADSNE. [Online] http://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/ra4al-synthesis-report_RA4AL-synthesis-report.pdf [Accessed 5th January 2014] Lindqvist, G. (2013). SENCOs: Vanguards or in Vain? Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs. 13 (3): 198-207. Morewood, G. (2011). The Developing Role of the SENCO during Times of Great Change. Assessment and Development Matters. 3 (4): 26-28. O'Gorman, E. and Drudy, S. (2010) Addressing the Professional Development Needs of Teachers Working in the Area of Special Education/Inclusion in Mainstream Schools in Ireland. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs. 10 (s1): 157–167. Robson, C. (2002) Real World Research. 2nd Ed. Oxford: Blackwell. Tissot, C. (2013). The Role of SENCOs as Leaders. British Journal of Special Education. 40 (1): 33-40.
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