Gail Greenwood is studying for the National Award for SEN Coordination with Best Practice Network. TEY spoke to her about her experiences of the programme…
GG: I work in an infant school, where I’m the Foundation Stage Coordinator. Day to day I work in the nursery with 3–4-year-olds. I took on the SENCo role close to three years ago this Christmas, and taking the course came as part of the role. I started it after I’d been in the SENCo role for about a year.
GG: The course is at Masters Level, so it’s very involved. There are five days of instruction: the first is about the professional content of the role; the second looks at strategic development of your SEN policy; the third covers coordinating provision; the fourth is about leading and supporting your colleagues; and the fifth is about working in partnerships.
Alongside these days, you have to put together a portfolio that meets a very wide range of criteria – you put in pieces that you’ll hopefully use at work and explain how they meet said criteria, and they’re then ticked off. On top of that, you have to write a reflective account of about 3,000 words, and then a piece of action research, which is about 7,500 words.
GG: There is a lot of research involved. Best Practice provides some titles, but you also have the option to visit Bath Spa University’s website for information and relevant books, and to get a card that allows you to visit other universities. You can get access to online journals too.
When you’re working at home you can contact a tutor by email if you have any queries. One thing I found useful was that response to these queries is incredibly prompt – I asked a question last Sunday night, for example, and sent it to two people in case either was on holiday: one replied back on Sunday night and the other got back to me the next day in the morning, which is really helpful.
In terms of workload, you can work at pretty much your own rate, though you do have to do it within two years. I spent four or five days last summer holiday writing solidly and this summer, because the second piece is longer, I’ve put seven days aside. On top of that I’ll spend time whilst carrying out the SENCo role thinking about bits to add to my portfolio and the gaps I need to fill. It is a lot of work, but you do get an extra five days to spend working on the course in whatever manner you choose.
GG: Some of the elements that we’ve had to gather together for the portfolio have been very useful, and have moved on my practice in the school – the simple fact that I’ve had to compile it for the course has meant that I’ve got on with it, for example, provision mapping. It’s also been very useful to have had the opportunity to get together with other SENCos at the same stage in the job – rather than those who have been doing it for 15 years – as it’s meant we’ve had opportunities to share ideas.
For more information on courses available from Best Practice Network, visit bestpracticenet.co.uk