GPV are proud to publish our first post from our new blogger, a SENCO in a Greenwich school who uses the pen-name Secret Senco! Over the next few months she’ll be sharing with you her insights and thoughts as she tackles the job of making sure the children in her school with special educational needs aim high to reach their potential, and beyond! Read on for her first instalment…
“When I first heard Jo and Viv from Greenwich Parent Voice (GPV) speak at an SEND reforms conference, I knew I’d stumbled across two people who were passionate and enthusiastic and instantly knew I had to get involved with whatever it was they were doing. I work as a SENCO in a London school and I’ve agreed to write for GPV with the aim of giving parents an insight into the ‘other side’. I’ve got lots of scenarios, ideas and situations to share with you but before we get started with that, I first want to set the scene and introduce myself, so here goes…
Before I started teaching I worked in what many refer to as the ‘real world’. I spent my days working up the big smoke, surround by adults and trekking around London pitching for new business for the corporate machine I once worked for. Did I enjoy my job? Kind of. Was it fulfilling? Absolutely not. So when redundancy came up I decided to take the money and run, break the cycle if you like and move into something more rewarding. That something was teaching.
Having graduated with a 2.1 in Law four years previous, I decided to qualify as a Primary school teacher via the PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). Now you’ll come to learn that everything in education is an acronym and so to become a qualified teacher you actually have to learn a second language which no one else in the world will ever understand. Despite the university prospectus selling the course as a ‘well balanced blend of teaching practice, tutorials and lectures’, the PGCE actually looked something like this: get into school for 7am, teach from 8.30am -3.30pm with no time to take a break or eat your lunch.
Mark up to 120 books a night ready for the next day’s lesson. Drag everyone and anyone you know in to making resources for your elaborate and creative Maths lesson which is guaranteed to engage everyone in the class from SEN (Special Educational Needs) to G&T (Gifted and Talented) children. And if you’re having a really good day you’re probably on track to get to bed by 1am only to be woken up again at 5.30am ready to do it all again. Throw in a couple of essays, portfolios, university lectures and lesson observations along the way and you’re coming close to understanding what the world of a student teacher really looks like. Yes it was hard, yes it was exhausting and yes my social life no longer existed but I thrived on the lack of sleep, the never ending to-do list and the new challenge that every lesson threw at me. Did I enjoy my new job? Yes. Was it fulfilling? It was getting there.
I qualified in 2011 and began working as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) in Year 4 at an Ofsted rated ‘outstanding’ school in London. My first class of 32 had eight children on the SEN register and their needs varied from ASD and ADHD to Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Global Developmental Delay. It was my job to meet all of their needs, ensure they were making progress and justify myself in pupil progress meetings when these children didn’t meet their targets. My lessons were differentiated in six ways to ensure all my eight SEN children could access what the rest of class were doing. I felt like a conveyor belt, creating endless resources to keep my SEN children engaged, motivated and on-track.
It was during a pupil progress meeting in the spring term that my head of year highlighted the fact that my SEN children were making progress, which was great as this is something most teachers find difficult to do. However, my G&T were not making the accelerated progress the school expected and the rest of my class were making good progress but apparently ‘I could have been doing more for them’. At that moment I realised that if the bags under my eyes, the suitcase full of newly marked books I dragged to school every day and the constant smell of coffee on my breath wasn’t enough to suggest that it would be physically impossible for me to do any more, then I didn’t know what would. I needed to refocus focus my interests and skill set.
Teaching 32 mixed ability children wasn’t for me; I needed to move into a role that would allow me to focus on working with and supporting children with SEN. I needed to find a job as a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator) which is exactly what I did.
It wasn’t easy finding a SENCO role, they were sought after positions. I had to move boroughs and change schools but I found what I was looking for. Eighteen months later I’ve got 26 children on my SEN register and could tell you everything and anything you needed to know about each and every one of them. I’ve built good relationships with their parents and I do my utmost to ensure that the right services are involved and their needs are met. Being a SENCO is a never ending balancing act, the to-do list never seems to lessen and there’s always a new spreadsheet to compile, a new initiative to buy into or someone new to please.
The amount of support available to children and their families is phenomenal but then so is the red tape, the paper work and the endless referrals you have to make before you can finally access the service you actually wanted in the first place. Co-ordinating and managing specialist services for 26 children and their families, at times, seems like an impossible task but you get it done because that’s your job. Despite the fact I never switch off from work, work most of the school holidays and whatever I do for some people will never be enough I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Do I enjoy my job? Yes. Is it fulfilling? Absolutely.”
by ‘The Secret Senco”