Last year, LKMco's report 'Joining the Dots: Have recent reforms worked for those with SEND' argued that the SEND system is now harder to navigate following the reforms of 2014. And now new data from The Key shows that school leaders in mainstream settings are struggling to support pupils with SEND. They cite budget pressures and longer than expected wait times for assessments of SEN as two major issues. Were these same themes manifesting in the types of articles being read on The Key for School Leaders, and were they connected to the revised code? As part of The Key's #SENDmatters campaign, we've explored the information needs of school leaders in this area a little deeper.
Getting to grips with the new code of practice
In both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years, The Key's article summarising the SEND Code of Practice was viewed more times than any other article that covered SEND issues. It was so popular that it was the fifth most viewed article across the entire site in 2013-14, climbing to the third most viewed in 2014-15. I've been crunching the numbers at The Key for a long time now, and I've never before seen a single article so continually popular with school leaders. It's testament to the scale of the task for the sector to get to grips with the changes in the new code.
But look out pop-pickers, this academic year that same article has slipped down the charts to #40. I think it is safe to say that school leaders are now much more familiar with its contents.
Now that fewer school leaders are requiring an overview of the SEND Code of Practice, what are the most common requests for information and guidance in managing SEND at mainstream schools? Below are the top three articles from the current academic year (login required to read the articles in full):
Forms for recording, monitoring and evaluating interventions
Questions from Ofsted on SEN provision
SEN provision mapping
This top three is the same across both primary and secondary phases. I'm not surprised to see an inspection-related question in there, as Ofsted looms large in many people's minds across all aspects of school leadership. Both of those other articles have downloadable templates, which is probably behind their popularity.
Zooming in on the SENCO
In around half of all the schools where school leaders used The Key this academic year, the chances are that someone viewed at least one article on some aspect of SEND management. This underlines how common it is for school leaders to want additional information about SEND issues. And as you might expect, this person is most likely to be the SENCO.
Taking closer look at the information needs of SENCOs, we can peer inside a SENCO's 'brain' by looking at the share of articles viewed by SENCOs across each of the five main areas of The Key for School Leaders' website, finding out how much time SENCOs possibly spend on each area of school leadership.
So pupils (and parents) are in the front of SENCOs' minds, but SENCOs are often wanting information on staffing issues like performance management of teaching assistants, or school improvement issues like measuring progress in pupils with SEND. For me this is a useful reminder of how managing SEND touches on all aspects of school leadership.
We can also see this breadth of issues in the top 100 search terms entered by SENCOs on The Key so far this academic year: