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This week I suddently realised that early years SENCos do not seem to carry the same status as school SENCos, yet they ae doing the same job. In school a SENCO normally has some time allocated for the work, will receive additional payment in recognition of the demands of the role, and is sometimes on the management team. But in pre-school the work is often done without pay in the practitioners own time. And sometimes the setting owner or manager doesn't seem to realise that it is important to have an experienced skilled person in the role.

Being a SENCo is a really important and demanding role. easily equivalent to being a deputy, so what can we do to improve the status of pre-school SENCOs and get them the recognition they deserve?

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I am qualified teacher/SENCo and was able to complete a course paid for by local authority (Certificate in SEN Co-ordination) which I am using towards MA (SEN). The course participants were a mixture of Early Years SENCos, Primary SENCos and Secondary SENCos but no private daycare settings attended while I was on the course. We actually spent alot of time talking about the differences in SENCo status by differnt heads and schools. Most teacher/SENCos don't have enough SENCO allocated time and code of practice is vague on this. All SENCOs I spoke to are very dedicated and do alot outside school hours.


In my setting (local authority setting), all staff have opportunities to go on training and there are lots of good SEN training courses out there in our local authority. Staff have taken up this training to further their own development (particularly training around Portage/Autism/sen in foundation stage etc).


Also have ENCo role - two nursery staff share this role and have recently had lots of training around inclusion and equalities.


I realise that we are lucky and some private settings don't get chance to leave work to go on training. In my area, there is a network of SENCos in private and voluntary sector with training led by Early Years Advisers. Some training takes place in day (including visits to different types of settings) and some is in early evening.


I don't know about status and pay within actual private and voluntary settings though. Suppose it depends on owner/manager and push given by advisers.

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It may just depend on the area you are in as to how a SENCo is percieved.


i act as Senco most of the time but am backed up by a team of dedicated staff who will follow through with their key children if additional help is needed using me as and when necessary.


All settings have to regularly attend at least 3 meetings a year with early years area SENCo and other teams involved attend also from Opportunity groups etc for advice. These are at different times of day so can be done daytime or evenings...it depends on employer whether you get paid, but we do as it is a requirement for us to attend these meetings, and if we did not get paid I would argue the fact.


Most of the time we do the necessary work during setting time, as we often have to work together to set up IEPs etc. and with other agencies who visit.


In our area we are encouraged to identify needs as soon as possible and if needed refer to the appropriate agency ourselves, as it is easier to get assessments done while in pre-school than in school. Everytime we have done this we have been treated by all otehr agencies as a professional who has knowledge of our children and have appropriately asked for assessments or additional help.


(this year have referred for Speach therapy- assessed within 4 weeks of our letter!now awaiting results and had educational pshycologists assessing 2 children and Area SENCo coming in for another child to ensure we were on the right lines)


while addtional pay for the role would be a step forward, with the funding as it is we cannot pay our staff a rate worthy of their skills, responsibility and training as it is.



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Our SENCO is also my deputy. She is a very experienced member of staff, having worked for me for about 15 years. I pay her for attending any meetings or training she needs for her vital role.

What I feel is that outside agencies don't always take pre-school SENCOs seriously. We have just had a little boy, who was refered to the child development unit, taken away from us and put into a maintained nursery by the local community nursery nurse. She tried to do this last year too.

Between us my Senco and I play an extremely important part in identifying problems and it is galling when parents are advised to remove them from us and send them elsewhere. If it wasn't for us the problem wouldn't have been identified in the first place and nothing would have happened until they went to nursery in September, another year down the line.


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Must be in a good area as we are actually listened to and supported, never had any suggestion of moving a child (except once when a child needed a more stable environment than we can offer as we only have 1 room and needed at least 2 to support her needs, but our SENCo at the time went with her to support her in the new setting while she was there, and still worked for us other days!)


SENCo meeting today and discovered that we are due to be paid extra for writing reports and attending meetings etc for children who need additional support from other agencies to help cover costs.


(Child referred for speach therapy our findings agreed and starts next week, 5 weeks after referral)



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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry I've been slow getting back to you - a bit of a work overload!

Thank you all for responding to my message.

In the area where I work pre-school SENCos do all the things you say - write reports and do referrals to SaLT, paediatricians and so on, take part in team around the child meetings, and have LA training courses available (NUT none of them offer points that can be used towards further training). But I am still concerned that their role, particularly in the non maintained sector, is not recognised as being at a managerial level, and in some cases not even viewed as highly skilled.


What I am trying to do is find ways of making owners and managers realise this is a role that is important as that of a deputy, but my problem is how to do it. I suppse accredited training for SENCos might help, and giving SENCos access to managerail leve training training courses so that setting managers see that they are being treated as managerial, but any other suggestions would be much appreciated.


(PS I would put a cute little smiley here but I'm never quite sure which is which! Except this :D )

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I am the owner of a preschool, I have 4 staff. A manager, a deputy and 2 assistants. Between them they have what I call "Officer" roles, which could be interpreted as Co-ordinator roles)


SENCO Officer-deputy

Child Protection Officer-manager

Health, hygiene & Safety Officer-assistant

Resource Officer-assistant

Inclusion and Equal Opportunities Officer-deputy

1st Aid Officer-manager

Parent Liaison Officer-assistant

Curriculum officer-manager

BTTM Officer-assistant



However, all my staff are contracted to "meet the welfare and educational needs of all the children"


All the above "Officer" roles are basically having a nominated person to plan for, co-ordinate and monitor the effectiveness of these provisions within our setting, all of them supporting our overall aim.


They all attend relevant training for their roles, whenever it is provided, which is paid for. They all have time allocated within work hours to do any paperwork, meetings etc. Their role is not to do all the necessary work that their role title states, but to co-ordinate and ensure all staff are informed of what is required to maintain these practices. All are as important as each other. The manager is responsible to monitor that all staff carry out their roles.


The deputy's role would be to cover the manager in her absence, this to me is a higher responsibility than a SENCO role. There are basically 7 roles/ functions of a manager (or deputy in manager absence) only one of which is being a co-ordinator.


I would love to pay all my staff a higher wage, pay more non-contact time etc, but this would make our service unaffordable for parents. If the government gave us a more realistic funding then wages would come a bit closer to staffs worth.

I agree with you that it would be good if SENCO and other training could offer points towards further education, but then you get into the realms of accredited courses, which would ineffitably push the cost up and make the training inaccessible to some people.


By the way, as owner and registered person, who at the end of the day has a legal responsibility to ensure the childrens welfare and education needs are met, alongside employment law, business law etc earns less per year than my assistant, and works much longer hours.


I am curious as to why you think managers and owners do not value the role of the SENCO, is value only shown through salary rates? I certainly value all my staff, in carrying out all their roles. They also get support from me and other professionals from a wide range of other agencies, they get a sense of achievement, motivation, and professional development.



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Hello Peggy, thank you for replying so fully. My feeling that SENCOs aren't properly valued comes from not knowing one who is given any time to do the job - all those I know have to do the work in their own time, such as during lunch breaks. Also if the role was really valued nursery owners would not give the role to somebody who has only been in pre-school work for a matter of weeks, as if its just a paper exercise . The SENCo should also have a significant role in influencing policy, learning environment and such like which is why it is suggested they are part of the management team. I don't know of a pre-school or nursery where I work where this actually happens. I understand about the porblems of finance having been a nursery owner myself, but it is a sad fact that status and income tend to be linked.


I hope I haven't offended you by my earlier comments. I'm just keen to make life better for many undervalued SENCos.

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No offence taken :)


My SENCO has experienced a great sense of achievement in her role ( especially when she shows that she knows the child better then the "experts") She was recently given an IEP by the local Area SENCO, and told him we had already realised the particular next steps and had already started working on them, he was quite impressed.


I know that not all settings give non-contact time, and this does make it difficult to get paperwork done without impinging on home life. Many Early years departments have "work life balance" officers ( or some title like that) who's role is to give advice to preschools on developing this area, may be worth your while contacting one to see if they have any useful tips to address the work overload balance.


Good luck, I do believe employers are changing, if but slowly, I have never been on ratio but I am available to cover to enable staff to have the time required to do their job and to do training. but I don't get paid for it, just lose this from my meagre profits.


Maybe the new "workforce" agenda might address this issue, not sure if you can comment on this issue in their consultation.





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