The new NPQ for SEND is key to a more inclusive system

Launching the new qualification for special needs coordinators, David Johnston explains how it fits in with a programme of reforms to drive up inclusion

Launching the new qualification for special needs coordinators, David Johnston explains how it fits in with a programme of reforms to drive up inclusion

27 Apr 2024, 5:00

This government is delivering high and rising standards across our schools and last year we set out a number of much-needed reforms in our SEND and AP Improvement Plan.

Among them was championing the role of special educational needs co-ordinators, or SENCOs – among the unsung heroes in our schools.

They do an incredible job providing children and young people who have a variety of learning needs with support and encouragement, and we want to see them given the same kind of excellent training and development that we are making available to all our teachers. 

As part of our mission to give every single child a world-class education, we’re consistently refining the qualifications and frameworks in place for our teacher workforce. NPQs are accredited qualifications, designed to support professional development and help those who want to increase expertise in their teaching practice.

We are now moving forward with a new leadership-level NPQ for SENCOs. It is designed to equip these vital staff and leaders with the knowledge and skills to give pupils with SEND even better support, helping to foster the kind of inclusive school culture and leadership that enables pupils to thrive in mainstream schools alongside their peers.

The new NPQ will replace the National Award for SEN Coordinadtion (NASENCO) as the mandatory qualification for SENCOs from September. It will be available from autumn this year and the first cohort will be fully funded, allowing SENCOs to take the qualification for free. We know that teachers already have lots on their plates, so the flexible, 18-month course has been carefully designed to fit around existing commitments. 

The qualification covers a range of key areas, such as enhancing school culture and enacting statutory guidance, which will help SENCOs to introduce policies which encourage best practice that creates a more inclusive learning environment for all.

This autumn, the first cohort will be fully funded

As Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing this is something I care passionately about. The NPQ is based on the latest and best evidence of what works, with greater quality assurance from the department. I’m confident that the qualification will have a positive impact on our schools, teachers and pupils.

While there are many valuable specialists supporting pupils, it’s important to recognise that every teacher is a teacher of SEND, which is why we are also making sure that all those in the wider teaching workforce also have the necessary training and support. 

The Initial Teacher Training Core Content Framework and Early Career Framework were recently combined and updated to ensure all our teachers can give every single pupil the best start in life. The updated framework, ITTECF, includes content on supporting pupils with SEND and children’s mental health.

When I recently visited Beaumont Hill Academy in Darlington, the teachers were motivating and used a range of encouraging learning techniques, making it clear how valuable the Initial Teacher Training support model had been.

I’m incredibly proud too that we’re also training up to 7,000 new early years special educational needs coordinators, which will make a massive difference in helping to ensure children’s needs are identified and addressed at the earliest opportunity before they escalate.

This government’s aim is to make sure there’s a level playing field which enables everyone to have the same kind of opportunities to lead a happy and fulfilling life. I am very proud that this new NPQ for our much-valued SENCOs is going to help deliver that. Make sure you sign up!

Applications for this autumn’s first cohort of fully-funded NPQs for SEND are now open here

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  1. Gemma Hall

    I think to say that SENcos are the unsung heroes is extremely far fetched, in my experience they don’t know the law, they’re not full time, they’re too main stream minded and like to let their own opinions affect their judgement. It also needs to be a full time, stand alone role, preferably with experience of working with SEND children. Having it as an add on role to teaching isn’t feasible as the job doesn’t get done properly.

  2. Patrick Obikwu

    I am interested in the new NQP SEND as a last resort to remain in education. After 20 years as a main stream teacher and middle leader observing the downward spiral in education is worrying because SEN students will bear the brunt.

  3. Hilary Dunne

    None of this will make any difference if the funding for special schools is not available My granddaughter has been out of school since October last year as the school said it could no longer cope and no one is making any effort to find her a place