Some of us remember when pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) were taught for some, or all, of the time in the metaphorical, or even literal, green hut at the bottom of the school field. Things have moved on since and meeting pupils’ SENDs is increasingly understood as a whole school responsibility. The historic remedial teacher has become the SENDCO and the workload and expectations have increased exponentially. Implementing the different facets of the role is essential if the whole-school responsibility is to be met.

I see the role as two key strands:

  • Leadership of a highly effective curriculum, teaching and learning.
  • Day-to-day operation and implementation of the SEND policy and processes.

Only where both are in place, will the school’s procedures meet needs.

Leadership of a highly effective curriculum, teaching and learning for all

  • Curriculum coordination

The SENDCO should be included in developing the school’s curriculum intent. At best this will allow advice on adjustments at the outset to ensure the curriculum is accessible, meaningful and challenging for those with SEND. At the least it will help you to identify the support and resources needed and allow briefing about the technical subject vocabulary and when and how it will be taught. Key vocabulary needs to be taught explicitly, allowing sufficient time for pupils to absorb the words and understand their meaning. Frequent revisiting of language and concepts will reinforce this. Opportunities to generalise and apply skills should be built into the planning. Pupils will remember far more complex vocabulary if it is taught in a memorable and engaging way.

  • Effective teaching

Clear and well thought out curriculum intent is the starting point for highly effective ‘quality first teaching’. The more of this there is, the more pupils’ learning needs will be met without recourse to other strategies. As a SENDCO, you need to know what highly effective teaching of pupils with SEND looks like and then model and demonstrate it, helping others to do the same. One of the reasons why SENDCO learning walks are so important is to identify the most effective teaching and share it more widely across the school.

The same is true of interventions. The best interventions I have seen are in the classroom in the lesson. Together, teacher and teaching assistant are highly vigilant, noting any pupils struggling with a task or concept during the lesson. This allows them to intervene during and after the lesson and before the next one, so that misconceptions are picked up and addressed as soon as possible. Sometimes, the teacher might work with those having difficulty while the teaching assistant keeps an overview on the rest of the class.

This is much harder if the teaching assistant has to leave quickly to go to another part of the school, or if they are glued to the side of an individual pupil with SEND. One of the arguments for teaching assistants to be assigned to a subject department is that they can develop their subject knowledge and attend departmental meetings, developing resources and giving feedback to teachers about how well pupils with SEND are doing in the subject.

  • Guidance and continuing professional development

A key part of the SENDCO’s role is to organise, facilitate or provide CPD and guidance for colleagues on effective strategies to meet the needs of pupils with SEND. Sometimes this will be briefing colleagues about a particular pupil. This is based on the SENDCO having a good knowledge of individuals, what helps them to do their best and what triggers a less positive response. Pupils with SEND often have complex lives encountering poverty and disadvantage. They may be more vulnerable to criminal exploitation; they may experience friendship difficulties; or they may be victims of, or witnesses to, domestic abuse. Therefore, it helps if the SENDCO has a good knowledge of the ‘whole person’. Workshops to share strategies among everyone who teaches a particular pupil can be very helpful. Staff either realise they are not facing the challenges alone or that other colleagues can help with successful approaches.

The other element involves sharing more general information about the implications of particular SENDs to develop a deeper understanding. For example, what is it like to have an autistic spectrum condition in this school? How can lessons and time around the school be made less challenging? Many pupils with SEND suffered during lockdown because they were isolated from others, home teaching proved a challenge to their parents and face-to-face contacts with other agencies and professionals disappeared. However, many others who attended school made good progress because they were in smaller groups, teaching was more directed towards their needs, and they received more individual attention. Suddenly school was a quieter, calmer, less busy and less overwhelming place.

Day-to-day operation and implementation of the SEND policy and processes

  • Time and diary management

As a SENDCO, time management is essential for organising and coordinating all the essential meetings, reviews and deadlines and entering them in the school calendar and in your diary. This includes reviews of individual education plans, pupil passports, provision maps and interventions, so that impact can be evaluated, and adjustments made. This is not to say that the SENDCO should be doing all this, but rather co-ordinating the contribution of all the relevant staff.

For pupils with education, health and care plans (EHCPs), gathering key evidence for the plan and its annual review, along with the involvement of parents and carers and other agencies, is important to plan and organise in advance. Plans are most effective when they are pupil-friendly and take all aspects of the pupils’ development into account. Teachers and teaching assistants, along with parents, also need to understand what to do to meet targets and objectives.

Most SENDCOs have other equally big roles in school as a teacher and leader which makes good diary management essential. You also have to be flexible and prepared to adjust your diary constantly, as colleagues, pupils and parents may need you urgently and you have to judge how urgent and immediate such requests may be. SENDCOs are most effective when they achieve this balance.

  • Communication

The number and range of people you have to communicate with varies according to the size of your school and the nature of the pupils’ needs, but always central are the pupils. An important role is to hear the pupils’ views and to understand what being at the school feels like for them. Then you can be an advocate for pupils with SEND and share this understanding with parents, colleagues and other agencies. A list of about 20 different groups involved with pupils with SEND comes to mind without much effort, and this vast array of professionals can be equally daunting for children and young people and their families. As SENDCO, you may be one of the few people who understands this and can open the right channels of communication.

  • Meeting legal requirements

Another key duty of the SENDCO is to help the school leaders and governors to meet the legal duties which pertain to SEND. There is a huge raft of legislation, regulation and guidance for this field. I am sure most people are aware of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Code of Practice 2015. I think though it is worth mentioning the Equality Act 2010. A key requirement here is the reasonable adjustments duty, which helps to avoid ‘substantial disadvantage’ for disabled pupils and has actually been a requirement since 2002. Many disabled pupils do not have SEN, so do not have school-based SEN provision or an EHCP, but they may require auxiliary aids and services to secure better access.

  • Record keeping

Most of you will already know the significance of thorough record keeping. Records of approaches the school has used and their impact are essential for statutory assessment and the issue of an EHCP by the local authority. Effective records may also be important in determining how many additional resources the school receives to meet pupils’ SENDs. Records are also necessary to decide and modify the school’s graduated approach to additional support.

Meetings with parents, school colleagues and other agencies need to be minuted to make sure everyone knows what has been agreed in relation to progress, provision and next steps for pupils.

There are also the records which help you to identify the pupils’ special educational needs in the first place whether these are of assessment data and pupil progress meetings, observations and learning walks, or discussions with pupils and colleagues. The records of your data analysis, learning walks and discussions also provide central evidence for your monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of the school’s provision for SEND and the effects these have on pupils’ progress. Effective record keeping is also key to checking the relative effectiveness of any interventions which may be in place. This allows you then to adjust, modify or discontinue particular strategies.


I hope the suggestions I have given will help you in your role as SENDCO. Pupils with SEND deserve to make the best possible progress, not only academically, but in their personal development and self-belief, in order to realise their aspirations.

If you think your school might benefit from an external review, we are here to support. Request your free consultation today.



Children and Families Act 2014 (UK) –

Equality Act 2010 –

SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years 2015 –

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