SENCOs work within educational settings supporting children, families, and school staff to ensure that students with special educational needs can access education and achieve their potential.
Ultimately, they are responsible for implementing a school’s special education needs strategy and providing specialist support to colleagues.
SENCOs play a key role in coordinating a range of professionals both within the school setting and outside, to assess needs and ensure appropriate support is put in place for children who require it.
This detailed guide includes a full SENCO job description and everything else you need to know about SENCOs, including salaries, skills, qualifications, typical employers and more.
- SENCO job description
- How much do SENCOs earn?
- What does a SENCO do?
- Requirements, skills and qualifications
- Who employs SENCOs?
- Which junior jobs progress to SENCO roles?
SENCO job description
How much do SENCOs earn?
In the UK, SENCOs earn an average salary of £38,966
SENCO salaries in the UK
- Low: £36,693
- Average: £38,966
- High: £42,373
SENCO salaries will vary hugely depending on;
- The type of employer – e.g. does the SENCO work for a local authority based within a social services team? Is the SENCO employed directly by a school? Is it a mainstream school, a specialist school or a privately funded school?
- The level of qualification held – e.g. SENCOs who already hold Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and the National Award for Special Education Needs Coordination (NASENCO) earn more than candidates still in training
- SEN specialisms – e.g. does the SENCO have additional qualifications or skills that they bring to the role such as a qualification for working with students with hearing impairment, vision impairment or multi-sensory impairment? Or do they have extensive experience working with children on the autistic spectrum?
- General salary factors – such as location and range of candidate experience
For example, an experienced SENCO in a large secondary school, whose role involves being part of the senior management team and managing an on-site Visually Impaired (VI) Resource Base, may expect to earn more than a new SENCO working in a small local school where the number of children with SEN is relatively low.
Bear in mind that these are average figures taken from job advert samples, and they do not include extra benefits such as access to local authority pension schemes, continuous professional development courses or research opportunities.
What does a SENCO do?
Breaking down the job description jargon, here are the typical tasks and responsibilities that SENCOs will carry out in average work week:
- Observing students – Facilitating assessments to identify what type and level of support is required (for example arranging testing for dyslexia)
- Designing SEN strategy – Creating, reviewing and updating the strategy document to ensure a school meets its legal requirements for supporting SEN children
- Coordinating reviews – Managing a calendar of annual reviews, ensuring appropriate paperwork is sent to all stakeholders in advance of meetings
- Liaising with external professionals – Coordinating specialist support for students (for example referrals to speech therapists)
- Delivering training – Providing input for teaching colleagues to ensure the team are up to date on latest policy changes and support strategies (for example leading a workshop about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a teacher training day)
- Supporting parents – advising parents in relation to Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans, and Statements of Special Educational Needs
- Coordinating exam arrangements – Managing personalised requirements for SEN students and being accountable for their delivery (for example calculating and monitoring extra time for students with dyslexia)
- Reporting – Providing formal progress updates to senior staff, parents and local authorities
- People management – Managing internal support staff, providing direction, guidance and coaching
- Managing budgets – negotiating best deals on external support or equipment to ensure students’ needs are met without exceeding the SEN budget
What do SENCOs need?
SENCOs need a range of skills, experience, knowledge and qualifications in order to carry out the job effectively.
Exact requirements will depend on the seniority of each job, as well as the setting, but generally speaking… here’s what’s needed:
Early career SENCO jobs will usually require the candidate to be a qualified teacher and be able to demonstrate interest in and experience of special educational needs. However, some schools may be willing to support a teaching assistant with relevant SEN experience to progress to QTS and then the SENCO qualification NASENCO
Senior SENCO roles will normally require candidates to have previous experience at management level, delivering SEN strategies successfully and managing a wide range of stakeholder interests. E.g. if a school was hiring a SENCO to manage a staff team supporting a large cohort of students with complex special educational needs, they would prefer a candidate with a background in people management.
SENCOs need a combination of skills to enable students to reach their potential and the school to meet its legal requirements, these include the following:
- Communication: Written and verbal communication with students, school staff, parents and external professionals
- Leadership: Managing small teams of school support staff and contracted specialists
- Monitoring and evaluation: Regularly reviewing support put in place and adapting provision in response to developments and changes
- Negotiation: Dealing with expectations of multiple stakeholders and persuading others to make compromises to achieve the best outcome for the student
- Problem solving: Finding creative solutions to budgetary or resource constraints to ensure appropriate support can be provided
And the more industry specific “hard skills” include:
- Specialist SEN knowledge: Knowledge of the different types of special educational needs (for example Autism, Asperger’s, Visual or Hearing Impairment) and effective support strategies (for example flashcards or different coloured paper)
- Referral mechanisms: Knowledge of the wider network of professionals to whom a student can be referred (for example physiotherapists or behaviour support services) and the correct referral process
- Legal frameworks: Knowledge of the latest SEN government guidance for schools
- Education: SENCOs will require some experience or knowledge of educational settings and their practices and processes.
Qualifications are now essential to work as a SENCO, although historically many SENCOs trained on the job.
There is a required route into working as a SENCO as well as additional qualifications that are recognised across the profession and will help candidates to access roles with more responsibility or better opportunities for progression.
Qualified Teacher Status
All new SENCOs must have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)
In order to become a teacher, individuals must gain qualified teacher status. The most popular routes include:
- A three-year dedicated teaching degree such as a Bachelor of Education which will also include teaching placements within schools
- A non-teaching degree (minimum 2:2) followed by a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) – which is a one-year degree teaching students the theory and structure of classroom teaching, combined with teacher placements within schools
Teachers are required to have a grade C or above in their maths and English GCSEs.
Teachers are required to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to ensure they have a clean criminal record and are safe to work with children.
National Award for Special Educational Needs (NASENCO)
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland SENCOs must complete a postgraduate level National Award for Special Educational Needs (NASENCO). It is common for SENCOs to study for this additional qualification on a part time basis whilst in the role, and it provides thorough guidance in SEN provision and legislation.
Mandatory qualifications for specialist teachers
To work in some specialist roles, additional qualifications may be required, for example mandatory qualifications for specialist teachers of pupils with hearing impairment, vision impairment or multi-sensory impairment.
What is expected of SENCOs?
In mainstream schools and colleges a SENCO will usually be expected to commit to the following:
- Term time hours – (39 weeks a year) in school with a standard day starting around 8.30am and finishing at 4pm, with administration work often completed outside of these hours. SENCOs typically work 40-45 hours a week. Part time roles are often available
- Restricted holidays – as SENCOs tend to work term time only, it is unlikely that requests for holiday will be granted during the school term
- Occasional evening or weekend work (for example to be available at parents’ evenings or school open days)
- Location – Education settings including schools, colleges and alternative providers. SENCOs may travel to attend external meetings with outside agencies or to carry out home visits where appropriate
- Occasion travel for training courses
As SENCOs tend to work for schools, they will usually receive a standard package, including:
- School holidays – although there is always an element of planning and admin work to be completed outside core hours, SENCOs benefit from school holidays and an average of 65 days away from the workplace compared to the usual 25 days for the average UK employee
- Pension – SENCOs can often access good local authority schemes with a high level of employer contributions
- Teaching and learning responsibility payments – SENCOs receive additional pay for taking on extra responsibilities
Who employs SENCOs?
Due to the need to meet legal requirements for support to SEN students, SENCO skills are in high demand across all educational settings.
Large schools and colleges tend to employ SENCOs fulltime, whereas small education providers may use part time staff or consultants.
Typical SENCO employers:
- Early years education providers – including maintained or independent nurseries and pre-schools – provide learning for children who are under the compulsory school starting age, typically ages 3-5
- Schools – the most common SENCO positions are in infant, primary and secondary schools run by local government. There are also a smaller number of privately run schools in the UK which also employ SENCOs
- Colleges – sometimes known as further education establishments, colleges teach A level subjects and a wide range of vocational qualifications to 16-18 year olds and they need highly skilled SENCOs to ensure support across their full range of courses and apprenticeships
- Pupil referral units (PRU) or Alternative Provision Academies (AP) – provide education for those not able to access mainstream school, for example for physical or mental health reasons, or those who have been excluded or are on the waiting list for a school place after moving to a new area
Which jobs progress to SENCO roles?
There are a number of jobs which see employees naturally progress into specialist SENCO roles. These include:
Classroom teachers educate students by developing long term education plans, delivering lessons and monitoring their progress. They follow the national curriculum set by the government and teach a wide range of subjects and age groups, from primary through to higher education level. They are also responsible for providing a safe and enjoyable learning environment for their students and supporting them in preparation for compulsory exams.
Higher level teaching assistant
Teaching assistants (TAs) support teachers to enable classrooms to function smoothly, manage behaviour and provide general assistance in the delivery of lessons in primary, secondary and nursery schools. With a willingness to gain qualified teacher status, a teaching assistant can progress to a SENCO role.
Children and families social work assistant
Social work assistants support social workers across homes, schools and hospitals to provide advice and resources to vulnerable or deprived individuals and families. They work to safeguard children from harm and endeavour to improve the quality and outcomes of people’s lives through long-term support. They already have many of the key skills required for a SENCO position and with a willingness to gain qualified teacher status, a Children and families social work assistant could progress to a SENCO role in a school or community setting.
Which senior jobs do SENCOs progress to?
Even though being a SENCO is a rewarding career choice in its own right, it can also be a springboard into more senior and higher paid jobs, such as:
Education and SEN consultant
Some SENCOs go on to establish an independent consultancy business, advising and supporting parents and schools in relation to Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans, and Statements of Special Educational Needs.
SENCOs could consider progression into the field of university lecturing; researching, writing content, delivering lectures and marking assessments for SENCO qualifications.
SENCOs may be interested in progressing into a wider Inclusion Manager role, responsible for behaviour management, attendance and safeguarding as well as SEN.
Assistant head teacher
Some SENCOs progress into senior management positions within educational settings, such as Head teacher or Assistant head teacher, overseeing the strategy and overall leadership of an education provider.
SENCO job description – conclusion
The Special Educational Needs Coordinator is a highly skilled job with consistent demand across the UK from a wide range of employers in the education sector.
It pays above the national average salary, offers challenging and rewarding work as well as plenty of opportunities to specialise and progress.
SENCO job description | Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator? ›
A SENCo, or Special
In mainstream primary schools the key responsibilities of the SENCO may include: Overseeing the day-to-day operation of the school's SEND policy. Coordinating provision for children with SEND. Liaising with and advising fellow teachers.What does SEN stand for in education? ›
What 'special educational needs' means. 'Special educational needs' is a legal definition and refers to children with learning problems or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children the same age.What is the role of a teacher? ›
What is the role of a teacher? The major role of a teacher is to support learners in their quest for new knowledge on a specified set of subjects. This applies to students of all ages, from preschool to post-graduate learners.