SEN Leaders – why it’s so important and what’s happened so far

By Tuesday, June 2, 2015 No tags Permalink

London schools outperform schools in the rest of England, achieve the highest proportion of students obtaining five good GCSEs and the highest GCSE attainment for pupils from poorer backgrounds.

Although not the only measure of success, London has the highest percentage of schools rated ‘outstanding’ and Ofsted considers the quality of teaching and leadership in London schools to be substantially higher than the national level.

London is the top-performing region in England using other measurements, e.g. the percentage of school-leavers remaining in further or higher education.

The CfBT report, Lesson Learned from London Schools, identified a number of characteristics of London Schools that supported this success, including the presence of strong interschool networks and a ‘high expectations/no excuses for underperformance’ culture.

This said, outcomes for children with SEND, in London and beyond, remain too low. The London Leadership Strategy’s (LLS’s) SEN Leaders project aims to take some of the lessons learned from London’s success and place them at the heart of SEND improvement practice.

School-to-school collaboration in SEND has many benefits:

1. Knowledge mobilisation
London Challenge’s mantra was that many of the answers to London’s problems already existed within the system – knowledge simply needed to be better moved around. The same is true of SEND; working in partnership to develop SEND provision ensures that knowledge is mobilised and that learning stays within the school system.

2.Upward convergence
School-to-school collaboration ensures that we focus on the high-performing as well as the lowest-performing schools. Sir George Berwick and Challenge Partners’ ‘upward convergence,’ model is a theory of action that stimulates high performing schools to rise higher through interschool collaboration, so that the whole system moves on and both the ‘supporting’ and ‘supported’ benefit from working together.

SEN leaders blog image

3. Retention
Colleagues involved in LLS’s school-to school SEN support consistently feedback that they enjoy it. It is a rewarding and enriching experience that supports professional development, develops knowledge and inspires new ideas and ways of working. As a result, the opportunity to engage in such work offers a powerful retention strategy for schools involved.

4. Financial sustainability
At a time when schools face increasing financial challenges, school-to-school support in SEN ensures that the majority of funding stays within the school system and is not lost to external bodies and private consultancies. Schools are paid by schools to release their outstanding leaders.

5.Cross-phase partnership
School-to-school approaches to SEN improvement offer real opportunities for special schools and mainstream schools to learn from each other. If they are to collaborate effectively, then a planned, meaningful and trusted partnership is essential.

SEN Leaders, delivered by outstanding practitioners including National Leaders of Education, SLEs, SENCOs and other senior leaders, takes what we know works in SEND and equips practitioners to review and create effective improvement plans for SEND provision.

Earlier in May, the first SEN Leaders training took place, delivered by Andrea Charman; an experienced trainer and coach who also provides training to NLEs. The approach used a proven coaching model that transfers knowledge and experience resident in senior practitioners with a view to building long-term sustainability.

The training included setting coaching in context; defining what coaching is and is not; and exploring the underpinning principles of successful sustained practice.

“The coaching workshop was an excellent opportunity for me to further develop skills to benefit practice both in my own school and beyond. It was particularly beneficial to explore the significant differences between mentoring and coaching, and how as leaders in SEND, there are distinct purposes for both,” said Maria Constantinou, Deputy Head, St Mary’s Primary School, East Barnet.

LLS will now be deploying SEN Leaders to work with schools to identify strengths and areas of development across eight key areas:

  1. Leadership
  2. Efficient use of resources
  3. Monitoring, tracking and evaluation
  4. Assessment and identification
  5. Working with pupils and parents.
  6. Improving teaching and learning
  7. Developing provision
  8. Improving outcomes.

“The intensive training enhanced our coaching skills and developed our reflections to ensure the support we provide promotes practitioner-led developments. This was powerful because it means the SEN Leaders programme will be built on a model of sustainable outcomes which builds capacity.” Vijita Patel, Special School Director and Associate Principal Swiss Cottage Special School.

It was a real pleasure to be in a room with so many dedicated, enthusiastic and passionate leaders of SEND. I believe that we have a real opportunity for schools and practitioners to lead the SEND improvement agenda; that journey begins by working together.

David Bartram
SEN Director
London Leadership Strategy

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