Role of the SENCO

The Role of the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) or Inclusion Officer

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 describes the importance of the role of the SENCo in all school settings, from pre-school to secondary.


Page contents

Return to top


The role of the SENCo in early year’s provision

A maintained nursery school must ensure that there is a qualified teacher designated as the SENCo in order to ensure the detailed implementation of support for children with SEN. This individual should also have the prescribed qualification for SEN Co-ordination or relevant experience.

The EYFS framework requires other early years providers to have arrangements in place for meeting children’s SEN. Those in group provision are expected to identify a SENCo. Childminders are encouraged to identify a person to act as SENCo and childminders who are registered with a childminder agency or who are part of a network may wish to share that role between them.

The role of the SENCo involves:

  • ensuring all practitioners in the setting understand their responsibilities to children with SEN and the setting’s approach to identifying and meeting SEN
  • advising and supporting colleagues
  • ensuring parents are closely involved throughout and that their insights inform action taken by the setting, and
  • liaising with professionals or agencies beyond the setting.

Return to top


The role of the Area SENCO

To fulfil their role in identifying and planning for the needs of children with SEN, local authorities should ensure that there is sufficient expertise and experience amongst local early years providers to support children with SEN.

Local authorities often make use of Area SENCo’s to provide advice and guidance to early years providers on the development of inclusive early learning environments. The Area SENCo helps make the links between education, health and social care to facilitate appropriate early provision for children with SEN and their transition to compulsory schooling.

Typically, the role of the Area SENCo includes:

  • providing advice and practical support to early years providers about approaches to identification, assessment and intervention within the SEN Code of Practice
  • providing day-to-day support for setting-based SENCo s in ensuring arrangements are in place to support children with SEN
  • strengthening the links between the settings, parents, schools, social care and health services
  • developing and disseminating good practice
  • supporting the development and delivery of training both for individual settings and on a wider basis
  • developing links with existing SENCo networks to support smooth transitions to school nursery and reception classes, and
  • informing parents of and working with local impartial Information, Advice and Support Services, to promote effective work with parents of children in the early years.

The Area SENCo plays an important part in planning for children with SEN to transfer between early year’s provision and schools. They would also attend meetings where possible to update their knowledge and skills, e.g. Area SENCo Meetings.

Where there is an Area SENCo in place, they will want to work with early years providers who are registered with either Ofsted or a childminder agency. They should consider how they work with and provide advice to childminder agencies and their registered providers in supporting children with SEN.

Return to top


The role of the SENCo in schools

Governing bodies of maintained mainstream schools and the proprietors of mainstream academy schools (including free schools) must ensure that there is a qualified teacher designated as SENCo for the school.

The SENCo must be a qualified teacher working at the school. A newly appointed SENCo must be a qualified teacher and, where they have not previously been the SENCo at that or any other relevant school for a total period of more than twelve months, they must achieve a National Award in Special Educational Needs Co-ordination within three years of appointment.

A National Award must be a postgraduate course accredited by a recognised higher education provider. The National College for Teaching and Leadership has worked with providers to develop a set of learning outcomes. When appointing staff or arranging for them to study for a National Award schools should satisfy themselves that the chosen course will meet these outcomes and equip the SENCo to fulfil the duties outlined in this Code. Any selected course should be at least equivalent to 60 credits at postgraduate study.

The SENCo has an important role to play with the head teacher and governing body, in determining the strategic development of SEN policy and provision in the school. They will be most effective in that role if they are part of the school leadership team.

The SENCo has day-to-day responsibility for the operation of SEN policy and co-ordination of specific provision made to support individual pupils with SEN, including those who have EHC plans.

The SENCo provides professional guidance to colleagues and will work closely with staff, parents and other agencies. The SENCo should be aware of the provision in the Local Offer and be able to work with professionals providing a support role to families to ensure that pupils with SEN receive appropriate support and high quality teaching.

The key responsibilities of the SENCo may include:

  • overseeing the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy
  • coordinating provision for children with SEN
  • liaising with the relevant Designated Teacher where a looked after pupil has SEN
  • advising on the graduated approach to providing SEN support
  • advising on the deployment of the school’s delegated budget and other resources to meet pupils’ needs effectively
  • liaising with parents of pupils with SEN
  • liaising with early years providers, other schools, educational psychologists, health and social care professionals, and independent or voluntary bodies
  • being a key point of contact with external agencies, especially the local authority and its support services
  • liaising with potential next providers of education to ensure a pupil and their parents are informed about options and a smooth transition is planned
  • working with the head teacher and school governors to ensure that the school meets its responsibilities under the Equality Act (2010) with regard to reasonable adjustments and access arrangements
  • ensuring that the school keeps the records of all pupils with SEN up to date

The school should ensure that the SENCo has sufficient time and resources to carry out these functions. This should include providing the SENCo with sufficient administrative support and time away from teaching to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities in a similar way to other important strategic roles within a school.

It may be appropriate for a number of smaller primary schools to share a SENCo employed to work across the individual schools, where they meet the other requirements set out in this chapter of the Code. Schools can consider this arrangement where it secures sufficient time away from teaching and sufficient administrative support to enable the SENCo to fulfil the role effectively for the total registered pupil population across all of the schools involved.

Where such a shared approach is taken the SENCo should not normally have a significant class teaching commitment. Such a shared SENCo role should not be carried out by a head teacher at one of the schools.

Schools should review the effectiveness of such a shared SENCo role regularly and should not persist with it where there is evidence of a negative impact on the quality of SEN provision, or the progress of pupils with SEN.