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How to improve the effectiveness of SEND Governance without spending a penny

Low on budget? Adam Boddison offers five tips on how schools can still improve SEND governance...

  • How to improve the effectiveness of SEND Governance without spending a penny

As the Chief Executive of nasen and a National Leader of Governance, I have the privilege of visiting a large number of schools and of discussing the strategic approach to SEND (special educational needs and/or disabilities) with school leaders, governors, trustees etc.

A question that I am often asked is ‘What can we do to improve SEND governance without any budget?’ and as a result, I have developed five top tips.

1 | Give SEND an equivalent status to pupil premium

Most governors and leaders have a thorough understanding of the impact of pupil premium provision in their schools. This includes the number of pupils eligible for pupil premium, the amount of funding received and an overview of how that funding has been spent.

Conversely, relatively few governors and leaders have an equivalent level of knowledge in relation to the impact of spending on pupils with SEND. This is because there is a statutory requirement to develop an annual report with the information about pupil premium, but this is not the case for SEND.

Most governors (and arguably SENCOs) are not aware of the financial value of the SEN notional budget, let alone how it might be spent. Indeed, there is some debate about whether or not the SEN notional budget exists at all given that it is packaged with the general funding received by schools.

My suggestion is that when governors receive the annual pupil premium report, this should be extended to include pupils with SEND. There is likely to be a significant overlap between those eligible for pupil premium and those at the level of SEN support.

Governors and leader will want to understand how the different funding streams are used collaboratively, since these pupils are arguably double-disadvantaged and triple-funded.

2 | Make SEND everybody’s responsibility (like safeguarding)

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 was clear that SEND is everybody’s responsibility. However, the risk of such an approach is that everybody thinks others have the responsibilities covered, but in practice the responsibility falls to a small number of individuals and so provision is not as effective as it should be.

Schools need to foster a culture of inclusion where SEND is everybody’s responsibility in much the same way that safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility.

All those working in schools would understand they have a role to play in safeguarding, and even though there are safeguarding leads, they would not seek to abdicate their safeguarding responsibilities.

It is important that school leaders and governors seek to achieve a similar level of organisation-wide buy-in for SEND.

3 | Every leader a leader of SEND

If we expect every teacher to be a teacher of SEND, then the essential prerequisite is for every leader to be a leader of SEND.

Leadership in a school starts with the board of governors (or trustees if it is a Multi-Academy Trust), so they ought to overtly demonstrate their commitment to getting it right on SEND and inclusion.

In practical terms, it is important that schools ensure all governors are familiar with at least chapter six of the SEND Code of Practice, which consists of 20 pages that outline the key expectations for schools.

A basic, yet key, requirement for governors is that they are familiar with the four broad areas of need in the SEND Code of Practice, which will help to prevent them making decisions about pupils with a diverse range of needs as if they were one homogenous group.

By having a more nuanced understanding of the distribution of needs within their own school, leaders and governors will be better placed to make comparisons against regional and national data and to ensure that the allocation of resources is appropriately aligned.

4 | Think SEND!

A simple, yet effective, strategy for schools is to proactively consider the impact of all decisions on pupils with SEND, even if it looks as though there may be no direct consequence.

It is too often the case that decisions made with good intentions have unintended consequences for pupils with SEND that then need to be retrospectively addressed.

By considering learners with SEND from the outset, fewer retrospective adaptations will be necessary since SEND provision will be built-in rather than having to be a bolt-on.

5 | Maximise the impact of the SENCO through effective deployment

SENCOs are typically spending too much time on paperwork, which would make them a very expensive administrator!

It is therefore appropriate for the SEND Governor to understand more about the amount of time the SENCO is spending on administration and how that time might be redirected towards supporting the development of high-quality and inclusive teaching and learning.

Professor Adam Boddison is the chief executive of nasen. Adam’s tips are based on information detailed in nasen’s Governance Handbook for SEND and Inclusion.

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