Flagship SENCO report exposes rising administrative tide impacting support for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

News - 13 January 2020

New research launched today reveals that three-quarters (74%) of Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) are being pulled away from supporting pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), to fulfil overcomplicated administrative demands and unrelated duties during allocated ‘SENCO’ time.

The Time is Now: Addressing missed opportunities for Special Education Needs Support and coordination in our schools - conducted by Bath Spa University and nasen - found that time-consuming Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan needs assessment requests, and complex paperwork requirements from local authorities, are preventing them from being able to carry out their role effectively. The lack of consistency in practice and clarity of process across Local Authorities was highlighted as a key driver behind the unnecessary weight of administration, as well as moves to leave the profession.

Despite a call to legalise the protection of SENCO time in The National SENCO Workload Survey, which was published by Bath Spa University, nasen and the National Education Union (NEU) in 2018, only 50% of SENCOs said they had been allocated the same time as the previous year to facilitate the role – but also faced more pressure from senior leaders.

Only 17% of SENCOs stated that they had been allocated more dedicated time to carry out their role, in comparison to the previous academic year.

Furthermore, two-thirds (67%) of those allocated ‘extra’ time, are spending it on administration tasks, instead of directly supporting children, families and teachers.

One of the key recommendations from the report is to create a single, national template for the needs assessment process and for Education, Health and Care plans. 

Dr Helen Curran, Senior Lecturer in Education: SEN at Bath Spa University, said: “This new research has demonstrated how SENCOs are being overloaded with needlessly complicated administrative tasks – which risks impacting on children with SEND and the level of support that they receive. We believe that SEN processes and practices across Local Authorities should be urgently reviewed to re-evaluate non-statutory paperwork requirements – and to develop a consistency of practice across all Local Authority Areas.”

Dr Adam Boddison, Chief Executive at nasen added: “We were delighted to work on this joint project with Bath Spa University, further expanding on last year’s report. These findings ignite an important discussion around the additional demands on SENCOs, and highlights the need to re-define their role, as well as reduce paperwork and provide greater support with administration.”

The report makes a number of recommendations, including specific points in response to the Timpson Review on Exclusions, which are made in relation to the development of the SENCO role at a national and local level.

Summary of Key Recommendations

  • Review of SEND Code of Practice in relation to SENCO role: SENCOs should have protected time to enable the effective facilitation of their role and it should be a statutory requirement that the SENCO is a member of the school senior leadership team.
  • Review of SEND Code of Practice in relation to provision for children: The legal definition of SEN should be reviewed in light of the rapid development in sector understanding regarding neuro-diversity, as well as the changing demographic of our school population.
  • Development of consistent, effective SEN provision nationally: To develop consistency of practice across Local Authorities and reduce administrative demands, a single, national template should be developed for Education, Health and Care plans.
  • Facilitation of SENCO role in educational setting: The Department for Education should provide sufficient funding for the SENCO role for every school in the country, SENCOs should be given additional administration support and they should be placed on the leadership pay scale.

The Time is Now: Addressing missed opportunities for SEN Support and coordination in our schools focused on the current issues and priorities that SENCOs, and others, have identified in relation to the development of Special Educational Needs in their settings. Over 1,800 (1,806) individuals contributed to the study. The survey was open for just under four weeks to all those who worked in education.

You can read the full report here: 

National SENCO Workload Survey