Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

Special Educational Needs Coordinators or teachers – who's in the driving seat for special educational needs provision in English primary schools?

Qureshi, S. (2014) Special Educational Needs Coordinators or teachers – who's in the driving seat for special educational needs provision in English primary schools? Paper presented to: European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2014: The Past, the Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe, Porto, Portugal, 01-05 September 2014. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Abstract: 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.” Method The study applied a mixed method approach (Creswell and Plano Clark, 2007). The project consisted of two phases. The first involved a survey of a purposive sample of 223 primary school SENCOs from the UK ‘National Award for SEN Coordination’ Course, a mandatory professional development for all new to role SENCOs and those who had been working in their respective schools in the SENCO role for less than 12 months prior to September 2009 (DCSF, 2009). The questionnaire, to which 42 SENCOs responded, gained a deeper insight into SENCOs’ perceptions of their roles in relation to teachers, and formed a basis for in-depth interview questions. The second phase consisted of semi-structured interviews of 18 SENCOs and 18 teachers, and with headteachers, in addition to document scrutiny of school SEN policies and other related documentation. The selection of the research cohort therefore, occurred as a result of ‘convenience’ and ‘purposive’ sampling (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2011) as it took into account not only my ability to gain access the participants, but also the fact that these SENCOs possess the particular characteristics required for the purposes of this research, i.e., they were currently working in the SENCO role. The triangulation of data (Bell, 2005), aimed at ensuring the verification and validity of data (Silverman, 2010) was accomplished through a three-pronged methodological approach including questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and document scrutiny. The research was conducted in accordance with an Ethical Code which was informed by the British Educational Research Association guidelines (BERA, 2004). All participation was voluntary. Informed and written consent was obtained from all participants in the study, who were informed of the aims and nature of the research through a written Information Sheet, and of the Ethical Code, which was also explained to them verbally. Expected Outcomes Data illustrate that SENCOs have a complex role, impacting upon teachers’ practices by utilising a wide range of skills, knowledge and expertise across different contexts and social interactions. This is influenced by whether or not they are members of their School Leadership Teams. Further, SENCOs’ time management is a constant concern in balancing competing priorities and demands, which include liaising with and arranging external support and keeping up to date with upcoming legislative changes which impact the documentary requirements of the role. For instance, the development of a ‘Local Offer’ of Services, both by the school as well as the Local Authority and Health Services, which details services that are locally available for SEN children, both with or without a statutory declaration of Special Needs. (DfE, 2013c) There is evidence that the degree to which SENCOs have a positive impact on teachers’ inclusive skills varies, as the SENCO-teacher dynamic is influenced by: • Mutually-convenient meetings on a regular basis • Teacher openness to change • Target setting and IEPs • Evidence of tried interventions • Empowerment of teachers by SENCOs through training • Decision-making by SENCOs and dissemination of information • Approachability (formal and informal channels of communication) It is intended that research outcomes will inform the nature of support mechanisms for SENCOs, teachers and headteachers, through the identification of factors that influence their own motivation, professional- and self-development, as well as that of their colleagues. Furthermore, a broader European audience can consider how the key findings are being manifest in a pan-European context, with reference to their own educational settings. Research outcomes can aid the development of specific competencies needed to develop optimal inclusive settings in accordance with the priority of ‘Raising Achievement for all Learners’ as set out in the Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) Framework at a European level (CEU, 2009; EADSNE, 2012).
Uncontrolled Keywords: Special Education Needs (SEN), inclusion, mainstream schooling, SEN leadership, UK
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2801 School administration and organization > LB2831.6 Administrative personnel > LB2831.9 Educational leadership
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
L Education > LC Special aspects of Education > LC1200 Inclusive education
L Education > LC Special aspects of Education > LC3950 Exceptional children and youth. Special education
Creators: Qureshi, Saneeya
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > Centre for Special Needs Education and Research
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > Centre for Education and Research
Research Centres > Centre for Education and Research
Date: September 2014
Date Type: Presentation
Event Title: European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2014: The Past, the Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe
Event Dates: 01-05 September 2014
Event Location: Porto, Portugal
Event Type: Conference
Language: English
Status: Unpublished

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