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SEN Policy Research Forum Exeter

SENPRF blog series SEND Green Paper: Response to posts from Peter Gray, and Julie Wharton & Christopher Robertson

Klaus Wedell responds to recent SENPRF blog posts from Peter Gray and Julie Wharton & Christopher Robertson below.

Julie, Christopher and Peter very pertinently query the way in which the ‘mainstream offer’ is presented in the White and Green Papers. I wonder whether the ‘confusion’ is actually a manifest indication of the lack of ‘coherence’ in the two Papers’ representation of the decision-making about the interventions mentioned ? Two aspects seem relevant.

~ Although there has been a gradual acknowledgement of the  wider goals of the ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum, the knotty challenge of this breadth has not been articulated in ways that accord the goals parity with the National Curriculum targets in regard to accountability. The plea for ‘metrics’ in chapter 5 of the Green Paper raises questions at least about practicality!

~ Similarly there is now an acknowledgement that ‘quality first’ teaching requires a ‘graduated response’ when class teachers are concerned about a child or young person requiring ‘additional or different’ provision – whether through ‘Targeted’ or ‘SEN Support’ intervention. However, there is little understanding of the conceptual challenge facing teachers in tracing the causal cumulative and compensatory interaction of the individual’s strengths and needs and of how teachers should cope with the ‘assess, plan, do, review’ successive cycles to find ‘what works’  – particularly for achieving the above wider developmental goals. The demand for this understanding has become more evident in relation to deprivational factors during the Covid-19 pandemic and now also to the impact of family poverty.

The above conceptual challenges also mean that class teachers, school staff and specialist support services personnel should be allocated proportionate time to think and confer.


Klaus Wedell is an educational psychologist and a founding member of the Forum. He was appointed to the first chair for children and young people with special educational needs at the UCL Institute of Education after the publication of the Warnock Report. On his retirement he co-founded the national SENDCo Forum, and worked for some years as a voluntary TA and SEND governor in the local village school.

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Christopher Mark Lewis Robertson
2 years ago

Thank you, Klaus

With regard to your final comment “… that class teachers, school staff and specialist support services personnel should be allocated proportionate time to think and confer”, what role do you think SENCos should play?

Christopher Mark Lewis Robertson
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Smith

Thanks Klaus,

As you note, school leadership level decision-making can make a positive or negative difference to perennial concerns about:

  • SENCo ‘status’ and capacity to carry out strategic leadership aspects of the role (this includes connecting a school’s SEND provision to the ‘local offer’ for the area)
  • dedicated non-teaching time to co-ordinate SEND provision and liaise with colleagues, families (there were some good examples of virtual support during the pandemic) and external agencies
  • administrative activities (including those linked budget matters) to those that could be support/carried out by someone else with appropriate skills.

Constraints on ‘good decision’ making may also arise from external factors, including the overall budget available to a school.

There are many instances where the SENCo role is compromised by the postholder needing to carry out other duties (e.g. covering for absent colleagues or taking on additional curriculum leadership teaching/leadership responsibilities).

Whether the SENCo should be the first ‘port of call’ when short or long-term term staff deployment issues need to be addressed, is a moot point.

It is possible that the SEND Review’s proposal (p.45, section 25) to “strengthen the relationship between the SEND governor and the SENCo” could help here, particularly if the governor is able to raise concerns with the full governing body and headteacher that indicate national SEN Support standards are not being met!

Lastly, you make reference to SENCos working in academies and MATs. I certainly know of circumstances, where the role of SENCo has been weakened considerably through being ‘overstretched’ in MAT provision.

At the same time, with the government’s firm commitment to ensuring that all maintained schools join a Trust by 2030, there ought, I think, to be an opportunity reconsider how SEN Support is provided across a cluster* of schools (particularly, but not exclusively, small and rural schools), and how SENCos can be deployed most effectively.

This will not be so straightforward in MATS with a wide geographical spread, but perhaps online support mechanisms, if used well, could help?

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