We usually visit over 40 conferences and SEN events a year. Currently all face-to-face teacher and parent conferences are not happening due to COVID19. So we are using the Events page to highlight topics of interest. Our first contributor is Adam Boddison, CEO of NASEN on the subject of School Governance
Improving 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 board members. A question that I am often asked by school governors and trustees is ‘What can we do to improve SEND governance without any budget?’
As a result, I have developed five top tips, which are explained in full in NASEN's Governance Handbook for SEN and Inclusion and summarised here.
Give SEND an equivalent status to Pupil Premium
Most governors 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 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 for governors to receive 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 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 will want to understand how the different funding streams are used collaboratively, since these pupils are arguably double-disadvantaged and triple-funded.
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 as not as effective as it should be.
Governors and trustees 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 board members seek to achieve a similar level of organisation-wide buy-in for SEND.
Every leader is 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 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, governors will be better placed to make comparisons against regional and national data and to ensure that the allocation of resources is appropriately aligned.
A simple, yet effective, strategy for governors and trustees is to proactively consider the impact of all decisions on pupils with SEND, even if it looks as though there may 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. It is also the case that effective strategic decisions that work for pupils with SEND are likely to be high quality universal decisions that work well for all learners.
Maximise the impact of the SENCO through effective deployment
Whilst the deployment of SENCOs is an operational matter, governors will want to assure themselves that limited resources are being deployed effectively. It is appropriate for the SEND Governor in particular to understand more about the amount of time the SENCO is spending on administration rather than supporting the development of high quality and inclusive teaching and learning. Research shows that SENCOs are typically spending too much time on paperwork, which would make them a very expensive administrator!
Like what you have read? Would you like to know more? Adam's book on School Governance is on sale in the shop: