By Maureen McTaggart

Half the special needs co-ordinators (Sencos) in Britain’s schools are spending as much as 30 hours a week on their role and 38 per cent of primary and 44 per cent of secondary Sencos plan to retire in the next four years, according to a new report.

“The Working Lives of Sencos”, commissioned by special needs association Nasen, also reveals that of the 500 sencos surveyed, 71 per cent of primary ones are part of the school’s senior leadership team (SLT) compared to only 33 per cent of their secondary colleagues. This is attributed to the fact that many primary heads are also Sencos and that, combined with the lack of extra funding and little or no recognition, secondary Sencos are reluctant to take on additional responsibilities that come with SLT status.

Nasen chief executive Lorraine Petersen is worried and says that combining the Senco role with other responsibilities means that the position is not being given the status it deserves. She says: "Nasen continues to believe it is vital that the Senco is a member of the SLT. If Sencos are to make a difference to the teaching and learning and ultimately school improvement, then they must have SLT status."

The report, carried out by Sue Pearson, lecturer at the University of Leeds inclusive education team, also raises concerns about training and professional development.

“Nasen believes that if the role is to be strategic within a school then a number of issues need to be raised”’ says Lorraine Petersen. "Time must be allocated for the Senco to work with and train other staff, to meet with other professionals, parents and ultimately the Senco’s own professional development."