Summer reads for SENCos (guest post)

Walking out of the Head’s office feeling excited about having just been appointed as a SENCO is quite a buzz and the weekend of celebrations are soon over and the new role begins a few weeks later, so where to start? What to tackle first?  There will inevitably be a full in-tray and it’s easy to get sucked into writing a provision map, a set of individual lesson plans, etc. but what to read to get ideas, support?  Where do you turn to learn what works and what to ignore? How are you going to shape and plan the support you and your team of teaching assistants can offer?


It might be sometime before you are sent on the NASENCO training course but there are plenty of books to read in the meantime, so here are 10 titles we’d recommend you to take a look at:

1 Rita Cheminais’ Handbook for new SENCOs (2014)

Rita Cheminais handbook for sencosSEND provision has its own statutory code of practice which you can download from: but reading regulations is a rather dry activity and often you’ll need guidance as to how to interpret and make sense of the guidance which is where Rita Cheminais comes in. Rita was a SENCo herself and a leader in SEN support so she understands that new SENCos need context to understand how the rules fit with other legislation and other issues teachers have to consider.

2  The SENCO Handbook (6th Ed. 2015) Elizabeth Cowne, Carol Frankl and Liz Gerschel

senco handbookBecoming a SENCO often means managing other teachers and a number of teaching assistants who may work part time or only with a handful of pupils with complex needs. Elizabeth Cowne and her fellow writers will give you ideas on building the capacity of class and subject teachers to better meet the needs of SEND pupils. There is a special section on the graduated response and how to track and record progress.

3 Beating Bureaucracy in Special Educational Needs (3rd Ed, 2015)

beating bureauJean Gross was Communication Champion for two years and worked across government to work to improve services for children and young people with speech, language and communication issues and promoted the SEAL approach to developing the social and emotional well-being of children. Her skill in supporting vulnerable SEN children will be give you invaluable insight and her best-selling book is packed with forms, ideas of how to plan the workload, curriculum planning and so much more.

4 A Quick Guide to Special Needs and Disabilities (2017), Bob Bates

Quick Guide to SeND bob batesIn every school there will be young children who don’t yet have a diagnosis, who you are pretty sure have special needs so you’ll need a way to identify what the key issues are for these children and how best to help them. It is possible the parent(s) of some of the children will have an idea too. This handy reference guide describes over 60 different Special needs from syndromes with complicated medical names through to range of communication related difficulties.

Getting it Right with SEND, Beccie Hawes and Becky Hawkins

Getting It Right with sendGetting the provision right and supporting the maximum number of students are key to good SEND provision. You will no doubt have a head of SEN support and inclusion in your borough, city or county and these teams although thin on the ground can be a valuable source of local knowledge and have ideas of what works with provision that is available in your area.  Beccie Hawes is a leader of a support service and her colleague Becky Hawkins runs the autism support in Walsall.  Together they have written Getting it Right with SEND which is  packed with ideas and charts and helps you measure the effectiveness of your service, the quality of the support for every pupil on the register and much more.

Provision Mapping and the SEND Code of Practice (2nd Ed 2015), Anne Massey

provision mapping 2ndMany students will need a detailed individual support plan and in some schools not all that support will be available in-house. So setting out what you and your team can provide and who to and when is critical in making best use of your time and supporting the maximum number of students.  So mapping the provision given, the support offered, what is working, what needs looking at again is key to good planning. It is also the key to good self-evaluation and school improvement.

 7 Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants (2nd Ed 2015), Rob Webster

maximising TAsHandling a team of teaching assistants maybe a new task but it is critical to the success of many interventions and the success of students. So taking a look at how the staff are deployed, who they are working with and how often will yield valuable information to improving the quality of the provision you are responsible for.

8 Total Teaching: Raising the achievement of vulnerable groups (2015), Neil MacKay

total teaching neil mackayMany ordinary class teachers, particularly those new in post may lack confidence when supporting vulnerable pupils with a range of different learning styles. So what skills will they need, how will they master the complex matrix of needs in a class of 30+ students. Neil MacKay offers a range of strategies to build into a class teacher’s repertoire that can give confidence to vulnerable pupils, particularly those without a label who might not be on the SEN register but who are clearly still struggling in lessons.

9  Teacher’s guide to SEN (2017), Natalie Packer

natalie packer bookWhen delivering training to teachers across the school you’ll probably be asked to focus on areas of need, working in partnership or delivering high quality teaching to a range of pupils with different needs. So for ideas to build into your training of colleagues, this is an invaluable book.

10 Inclusion for Primary School Teachers (2016)

Finally, keeping up to date and current is always a challenge and you may have time only to read a short article from time to time. So there are a number of teacher blogs across the internet one such blog is ‘The Diary of a Not So Ordinary Boy’ which is written by Nancy Gedge.  Her son has Down’s syndrome and Nancy herself is an SEND specialist in Gloucestershire so her work combines the powerful insight of a mum and a teacher.  She has written a book, too, especially for primary school teachers to help make sense of inclusion.

Thanks to Colin Redman from SEN Books for this article.

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