An investigation into the evolving professional identities of Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) in relation to their impact on teachers’ skills

  • Saneeya Qureshi

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The research reported in this thesis examines the impact that Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) have on the practices of their teacher colleagues. Since SENCOs are central to supporting children’s inclusion and achievement, the research centres around three research questions: whether SENCOs are able to motivate teachers to take the initiative in addressing the needs of children with SEN in their classrooms; whether SENCOs enhance teachers’ abilities to become effective teachers of children with SEN; and how the impact of SENCOs is currently being assessed within primary schools. The project was conducted within an interpretivist framework, and applied a mixed methods approach consisting of two phases: an exploratory questionnaire survey of 223 (responses n=42) primary school SENCOs from the ‘National Award for SEN Coordination’ Course; and semi-structured interviews of 18 SENCOs and 18 teachers, including head teachers. Document scrutiny of school SEN policies and other related documentation was also undertaken. Data triangulation aimed at ensuring the trustworthiness of data was accomplished through a multi-pronged methodological approach. The research was conducted in accordance with an Ethical Code informed by the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and University of Northampton guidelines. Results indicated that SENCOs have a complex role, impacting upon teachers’ practices by utilising a wide range of skills, knowledge and expertise across different contexts. This is influenced by whether or not they are members of their School Leadership Teams. Further, SENCOs’ time management is a constant concern in balancing competing priorities and demands, which include liaising with external agencies and keeping up to date with legislative changes which impact the requirements of the role. There is evidence that the degree to which SENCOs have a positive impact on teachers’ inclusive skills varies, as the SENCO-teacher dynamic is influenced by SENCOs’ training and skills and the dissemination to teachers; SENCOs’ and teachers’ professional identity; SENCO-teacher engagement and perceptions of inclusion; and the interventions and provision made for children with SEN. Implications for further possible research that were identified included the use of contact and non-contact time by SENCOs, the impact of the mandatory SENCO training and also the role of the SEN Governor as a crucial advocate for SEN at management level.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    SupervisorRichard Rose (Supervisor)

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