In September 2018, Bath Spa University, nasen and the NEU launched the National SENCO Workload Survey. The survey aimed to understand the nature of the SENCO workload across varying contexts in order to capture the breadth and depth of the SENCO role.
SENCOs in the survey said they hate not being able to offer all the support they believe students need because of time pressures and funding constraints. It is clear from the survey findings that SENCO workload is becoming unmanageable and pupils with SEND are suffering for it. It's time for the government to listen to the SEND experts.
While we know that workload is having an overwhelming impact on education staff across the board, this research demonstrates both the specific workload problems encountered by SENCOs and the impact on their capacity to do this vital job. More importantly, perhaps, it shows the impact on SENCOs as professionals, on their feelings of frustration and guilt at not being able to provide the support that their pupils need: these are the things that lead to burnout and to SENCOs walking away.
The NEU’s workload campaign has produced a toolkit which includes useful checklists on how to use a collaborative approach to tackling workload in schools. We don’t want SENCOs to feel isolated. Their role is crucial to supporting the work of all other teachers who, under the Code of Practice for SEND, are considered teachers of SEND. The significant workload issues highlighted by SENCOs must be addressed collectively by all staff in a school/college negotiating with the head.
This report is about the workload of SENCOs, and calls specifically for legally protected time for SENCOs to do their work. But many of the workload and time issues that have been revealed in this survey are driven by schools’ chronic lack of funding. Head teachers and governors are left with impossible choices to make on a daily basis because of Government decisions. The report has further highlighted the important role that teaching and learning support assistants play in enabling inclusion in many schools and the effect that the many redundancies are having on the work of other staff.
Unfortunately, SEND funding was ignored completely in the 2018 October budget announcements. This makes a mockery of the fantastic work that SENCOs carry out each day in an increasingly difficult educational environment.
It is time for the government to start listening to SENCOs, teachers, support staff, parents and children themselves about the everyday realities that schools are facing - SEND pupils are not ‘little extras’. There are many things that schools and SENCOs can do to support SEND pupils and build inclusive cultures.
The NEU welcomes the recommendations made in this report about time, status, collaboration and support for SENCOs. But if schools are not funded properly so that all SENCOs have the time and resources they need then children and young people with SEND will not reach their full potential.