All headteachers should have a SENCo qualification, because “inclusion starts from the top”, the children’s minister has said.
Will Quince also today told parents he was not “wedded” to the SEND green paper‘s controversial proposal of introducing mandatory mediation for families challenging councils over education, health and care plans (EHCPs).
Speaking at a Special Needs Jungle webinar about plans for a new SENCo national professional qualification, Quince said SENCos needed to be better represented in school leadership teams.
“My own personal view, this is not yet [a] government position, but I’m really keen that all headteachers should have SENCo qualifications because I think inclusion starts from the top.”
He warned that at present “too many SENCos are not on the senior leadership team of schools”.
“I think they should be, but if the headteacher is also SENCo, it would be a great thing.”
‘Open-minded on mediation’
The government has faced pushback over another SEND review proposal which would introduce mandatory mediation for parents challenging councils on their decisions about EHCPs.
Currently, families only need a mediation certificate to register at the first-tier tribunal, but do not have to go through the mediation itself.
Tina Emery, co-chair of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums, told Quince at the webinar that parents were concerned that mediation outcomes may not be legally binding.
Quince said “more families” were opting to use mediation, insisting it could be effective. But he added that he was “not wedded to the idea”.
“The fact that both parents and local authorities are telling me they don’t like it makes me want to sit back and think ‘we need to drill into this a bit more and understand what exactly the challenges were’.”
He added the government needed to “flesh out” whether the issue is mediation “in and of itself”, or rather the “outcomes” of it.
“I’m genuinely open minded on this. Please keep feeding in as part of the consultation. I’m not wedded to a particular idea…if you are genuinely telling me en-masse it’s not going to work and these are the reasons why then of course I’m going to listen to that.
“But please make sure that is evidence based and if there are ways in which we can improve it by saying ‘yep mediation could work but you need to do x y z’, let’s explore it.”
The webinar was held in association with NNPCF, Family Fund and Contact.