#senco5aday, People, Place, Purpose

Three questions for SENCOs to navigate the term ahead

By Jenny Bowers

Last month, the focus was on packing your suitcase.  That is great if you know where you are going.  This blog is all about direction of travel for the summer term in terms of balancing SENCO workload and wellbeing.  Having a map (or planning out of your term) is vital. However, over the last 12 months it feels like we have been given only parts of a map, or a map that has been in production as we have had to follow it. This has been draining and frustrating at times.

In the summer term ahead, it is important that we have / start to design a map we can follow.  A map that we, our learners, families, and staff get to the destination safely and that we are confident that we went the best way we could. To do this let us just have three key questions:

  • Does your map have a key that you understand?
  • Are there mountains and rivers you need to go over or through?
  • Can you imagine or foresee any interesting places to visit on the journey?

I have spent some time thinking about these questions.  I considered the implications for SENCOs, how this can be applied, and I have linked it to the #Senco5ADay framework.  The Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project (2008) study highlight 5 core components needed to support wellbeing.  A decade later, Anita Devi regrouped these to define the #Senco5ADay framework (2018), based on the principles of purpose, place and people. This restructuring was and is part of a bigger project called the SEND Leadership Pipeline, which is all about equipping colleagues from initial teacher training to advanced SENCO.  The wider project has been acknowledged internationally and today I want to use the three constructs alongside my map metaphor.  Here’s the key the charted journey of my thinking:

#Senco5ADay Framework (Devi, A 2018)
Metaphor QuestionsWhat does this mean for a SENCO?ApplicationSenco5ADay
Does your map have a key that you understand?Do you have clarity and understanding of what you have to do and how you are going to do it? Is there agreement from leaders and governors that this is the way to go? Which segments may be redrawn for this term- which elements can wait for next year?Be clear about what reviews, reports, assessments and provision needs to be completed/in place over the next term and what can wait or be sketched out now to be fulfilled later. Make sure that there is understanding and agreement from all involved and a clarity around the work to be done by the school collectively and by key individuals and what deadlines there are. Don’t forget the ‘big’ transition from key stages, as well as the annual transition from year to yearPurpose
Are there mountains and rivers you need to go over or through?Have a look at the diary or your plan, are there weeks where lots of things need doing at the same time? Do you have deadlines that clash, or where your SEND role overlaps significantly with deadlines from other roles? Are there deadlines and SEN work heavy periods that have implications for teachers and support staff?You need to find a way to even out deadlines and workload heavy periods; look at prioritising, maneuvering, delegating, and rescheduling. Work with other leaders in school where there is overlap and pre-warn staff if it is unavoidable. This is about finding a bridge, some Sherpa’s or a cable car!  
NB: You (and the staff around you) will need stamina, and crossing mountains and rivers take a lot out of a person, make sure that if they must be crossed, they are followed, wherever possible, by a nice easy grassy path afterwards – metaphorically speaking, of course!
Place and people
Can you imagine or foresee any interesting places to visit on the journey?As well as the reviews, the reports, the plans for next year and all the transition activities, make sure there is something in this term for YOU! Something that you love to do.This event (or two or three) could be CPD or a day of celebration with children/families/your staff.Make sure you have these things planned and that you are fully present for them. Staff, learners and families will remember you being there, as will you and that matters.Purpose, people and place
Use the metaphor questions and application to design your map.

Replenishment for the journey … a top tip from Anita Devi

“As SENCOs we can often focus on what still needs doing, rather than capturing moments of celebration.  A secondary SENCO shared with me recently, how she has a ‘Box of niceness’.  Every time she receives positive feedback or a thank you.  It goes in her box.  On days, when she is trudging through the mud zone in her map, out comes the box and it nourishes her.  Others, including myself, keep a folder in our Inbox.  What positive well being snacks will you have on the journey?”

Using the Map with a kind nod to E H Shephard and AA Milne

Winnie the Pooh said: ‘Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the Forest that was left out by mistake’.

A few final thoughts … as you plot out your best routes:

  • Don’t forget your suitcase (see the March blog!)!
  • Make sure there are places to rest and rejuvenate along the way. (This also means make the most of your time outside of work) The summer term must be a marathon and not a sprint! Maintaining stamina is important, we do not want you stumbling and falling into the destination (the summer holidays!)
  • If your journey takes you to another location, or to another role, remember what you have achieved on this section of your journey, and please leave the map and a list of good suitcase items for the person that takes up the mantle.

Have a fabulous summer term, and please let us know what the best bits of the journey are, and what stumbling blocks there are so that we can help with them in the future!

To steer effective supervision and other aspects of leadership, you can find a few FREE tools here.

Also SEND Leaders’ Appreciation Day 2021 #SLAD2021 is happening on 1st July 2021.  Be sure to share this link with others … we want to celebrate the good work you are doing!

About Jenny Bowers:

Jenny is passionate about empowering educators to excel. She believes that a culture built on ensuring excellent wellbeing, where coaching and supervision is an entitlement for staff, enabling them to work to the very best of their abilities. This means they will have a good work life balance and good mental and physical health. Jenny is very focussed on her purpose and from the tender age of 3, she knew she wanted to work in education. After, pursuing a degree that had a year at university in the USA and a gap year to experience work in other sectors, this became a reality, with Jenny training as a 3–11-year-old specialist. Jenny has taught in different areas in England and in addition to teaching has been DSL, SENCO, deputy head and headteacher. In all these roles, staff wellbeing as been at the heart of Jenny’s approach. She continues to serve in this area through coaching and supervision. You can engage with jenny via Twitter @jennypurplemoon (ask her about the moon image … it is quite a story!)

#TeamADL is a non-for-profit multi-agency team of specialists, committed to developing people, growing organisations and strengthening localities. Find out more at www.teamadl.uk

#senco5aday, People

A new journey begins …

By Jenny Bowers

Those of you familiar with the developments of SENCO wellbeing #senco5aday will recall how #TeamADL have distilled the 5 components of the Foresight (2008) study into three elements: People, Place & Purpose.  In exploring ‘people’ as part of the ‘Return to School’ post COVID19, we invited Jenny Bowers to share her thoughts on ‘packing your suitcase’. Enjoy!

March 8, 2021 heralds a new season in education and a new part of the COVID journey. We need to be ready and prepared as we can be for the return of all students to schools and settings. It may have been a while since you packed your SENCO suitcase, so what do you need to do?  In this blog, I use the ‘packing your suitcase’ metaphor to help SENCOs think about how they prepare and invest in their wellbeing at the same time.  It’s all about when, what and the how to pack.

When to pack?

I have always been a day before packer, (although I have a couple of reliable lists of ‘to pack’, one for a generic holiday and one for the more specialised festival camping bag).  A friend packs over a week in advance, popping things in as she thinks of them. Two different methods, same outcome; a packed suitcase prepared and ready to go before we leave.  What is your preferred time for packing?

As a last-minute packer, I’m often left thinking:

  • Is it the right type of suitcase?
  • Can I carry it?
  • Is it bursting at the seams or the zips straining under the pressure?
  • Is it reliable or will it break as it is thrown into the back of the car?
  • Are there things trailing out of it?
  • Can I get to the bits that I need first without difficulty? (A side pocket for my ID and ticket? A secure place for my phone and purse?)

This may sound a bit doom and gloom.  It is certainly not about being a worrier.  Just making time and space to think through the process, recognise our strengths, but also areas where we need support from our team.  I was chatting this through with Anita Devi, and here is what she said,

Returning on 8th March 2021 after lockdown 3 – this needs to be seen and presented to staff, students and parents alike as a key milestone, in the academic year journey. It is a milestone to reconnect, reset and start over. There will obviously be some residue issues from lockdown and some learners with clinically vulnerable needs may still need to be educated from home. However, we need to view this date as an opportunity to re-establish healthy boundaries of working. SENCOs are often too quick to take on additional tasks and/or create extra (and sometimes unnecessary) work. Here is my top tip: map out the trajectory for the next 6 months. What needs to be done and who from your wider SEND team (i.e., the whole school / institution) can do it? One final thought … education and leadership are both like a journey. The suitcase metaphor Jenny uses provides us with a good foundation to plan, pack and be prepared for the next stage of our travels. Onward!”

So back to my questions to think about.

What to pack?

How to pack?

Finally, have I got my itinerary? This is important! You need to make sure you do everything you want to do, but not cram it all in so you have no time to relax, or to reflect on what you have seen/done. Maybe some things are better left for next time?

Two tools that can help you prioritise the day-to-day stuff:

(1) Urgent / non-urgent matrix

When facing a list of to-dos, it helps to sift and sort using established criteria.  The matrix below looks at urgent and importance.  You may have your own criteria.

(2) The 1, 3, 5 list

This is great for organising what you will need to get through day one productively. You cannot do everything at once.  Using this model, you can build for day 2 or 3 and so on.

Thinking about the rest of the half term and the bigger strategic picture:  in the first half term have you scheduled in a meeting with your SEN governor and your line manager? This will help to check if everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. A coaching or supervision session booked in within the first 4-6 weeks, can also be supportive. I will be returning to these subjects in my next blog for #senco5aday, later this month.

A few final thoughts … as you start to pack:

  • Do not pack too soon, as you may end up taking something out to use and then forget to put it back in (yes, my friend did this).
  • Do not pack too last minute as you may well forget something important and end up having to deal with some stress (yes, that is how my list was born!)
  • If you are not sure what to pack, ask a colleague, connect, and collaborate with fellow SENCOs.

Most importantly, if the suitcase does burst open, do not panic, reach out and get support in putting it all back together again, maybe in a different case or a different way!

Do let us know, how your first day / week goes!

About Jenny Bowers:

Jenny is passionate about empowering educators to excel. She believes that a culture built on ensuring excellent wellbeing, where coaching and supervision is an entitlement for staff, enabling them to work to the very best of their abilities. This means they will have a good work life balance and good mental and physical health. Jenny is very focussed on her purpose and from the tender age of 3, she knew she wanted to work in education. After, pursuing a degree that had a year at university in the USA and a gap year to experience work in other sectors, this became a reality, with Jenny training as a 3-11 year old specialist. Jenny has taught in different areas in England and in addition to teaching has been DSL, SENCO, deputy head and headteacher. In all these roles, staff wellbeing as been at the heart of Jenny’s approach. She continues to serve in this area through coaching and supervision. You can engage with jenny via Twitter @jennypurplemoon (ask her about the moon image … it is quite a story!)

#TeamADL is a non-for-profit multi-agency team of specialists, committed to developing people, growing organisations and strengthening localities. Find out more at www.teamadl.uk