ABS273 - Teachers’ reflections on a mandatory award for coordination of special educational needs: roles, trajectories, context

2.2 Identity and professional learning in new and diverse ecologies
2 hours
This presentation is based on an analysis of responses to research into the impact and effectiveness of NASENCO - the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination in England, UK. Since 2008, this Award has been a mandatory requirement for all newly appointed special educational needs coordinators (SENCos), although experienced SENCos already in post and aspirant SENCos are also able to undertake the Award. The Award is therefore taken by teachers at different stages in their careers. The period since the Award’s inception has seen many changes in educational policy, many of which relate directly to special educational needs, including a new Code of Practice. The UK education landscape is also changing with the promotion of new kinds of schools with different governance structures, and other changes resulting from the widespread reductions in funding after the financial crash. The context for SEN is therefore changing and becoming more diverse; the Award has also diversified following the withdrawal of government funding in 2014, when it was opened to the market with new providers entering the scene.
In offering views on the Award, our respondents (N=1109) gave us rich information about the context for SEN provision in their schools. We sent out online surveys to schools, parents and children with SEND to discover different stakeholders’ perspectives on the Award in England.  The online survey included rating tasks and questions asking for comments, which were answered fully by many respondents. We also interviewed 20 SENCoS and 15 parents, and therefore have a rich dataset that includes quantitative and in-depth qualitative responses
A complex picture is emerging about how the award might influence provision. We are using Social Practice theory (and in particular the notion of schools as Figured Worlds, Urrieta: 2007) and Dreier’s (2002, 2008) concept of personal action potency to explore how achieving the Award affects teachers in different contexts. Analysis so far suggests three major influences: Personal resources (previous experience, willingness to train, enthusiasm for study, expectations of the Award); Content and delivery of Award (flexibility of approach, relevance to own setting, opportunities for networking) and the Context within which SENCos are working (how well SENCos are supported, whether they are able to use their new personal resources in their schools when they have finished the Award).  Dreier depicts personal action potency, or agency tempered by resources and constraints, as individual potential for action. However, we have suggested that the strength of the potential to act with influence can be a shared or group capacity (Payler and Georgeson, 2013) and this resonates with the emphasis placed by SENCo respondents on the importance of networking beyond the school, both during and after the course. We are therefore considering how SENCos, at different stages of their careers, might build personal action potency in beyond-the-setting interactions in two ways: through (emotional and practical) peer support which enables them to take up positions in their schools that better reflect the aims and values underpinned the Award, and through the  development of relational agency (Edwards, 2005) to provide them with outside connections to work more effectively. 
University of Plymouth
University of Plymouth
Queen Mary University
Plymouth University

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