The SEN Governor
'Recently...the SEN governor on our board has helped the SENCo produce the self-evaluation form'
If you want someone to talk to about what is going on in a school or about how to get the best out of a school, without upsetting relationships between you and the staff, that person may be one of the governors. Much depends upon the individual school;
we know some where the board of governors is as friendly and as interested in parents' troubles as a nest of vipers, and others where the governors are unknown or invisible.
What should you expect from your SEN governor? We persuaded one of the great and good to explain.
Insights from an SEN governor in a state primary school
The role of the SEN governor - how it differs to other governors
Being the governor with special responsibilities in the area of pupils with special needs is not that different from being a governor per se. You are involved in all the stuff that all governors do, but the area that you 'specialise' in is not a curriculum subject, but spreads across the range. Typically, the SEN governor will liaise with the school's special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCo) or equivalent, and aim to meet them formally once a term. From this meeting comes a report which is presented at the next full governors' meeting.
There is a policy that covers all such 'formal' governors' visits to the school. It simply says that the objectives of the meeting are decided before the meeting and that any written report/notes have to
be checked with the member of staff concerned before being presented. So what subjects are covered at these meetings?
There is a statutory need for the SENCo, SEN governor and headteacher to produce an annual review of the SEN and how they are provided for, including the number of children involved, the budgeting and what the current educational thinking and policies are. This can be quite time consuming. Recently, for example, the SEN governor on our board has helped the SENCo produce the self-evaluation form required under the new Ofsted rules. She is also there to help the SENCo in any way possible.
How can they help?
Don't expect any governor to instruct you on how to take up arms against the school; they are generally too involved and too committed for that.
SEN governors are not inspectors, but a source of support and a critical friend to the school and will probably have a special interest in checking how children with special needs are involved and integrated into school life.
As with all the other areas/subjects, it's worth remembering that, while SEN governors may have a personal, even a passionate, interest in this 'special' subject, they won't have (or are extremely unlikely to have!) expert knowledge of the subject or teaching methods, so probably don't know better than staff how to handle a certain area!
However, they have a duty to ensure that parents of children with SEN are kept informed and consulted about their child's progress and that all parents are kept informed about SEN - via the prospectus, policies, newsletters, meetings of the parent-teacher association, and the governors' annual report to parents.
At their best, then, the SEN governor will have a clear understanding of what is going on in the school, and will be prepared to talk to you openly about what might be done to help, and to keep the conversation confidential.
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