Exclusion and the strategic leadership role of Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCos) in England: planning for COVID-19 and future crises
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A small-scale study investigated the role of SENCos in England immediately prior to, during and following the first closure of schools nationally in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A mixed-methods research strategy comprising semi-structured interviews and a national online survey generated data related to SENCos' involvement in strategic planning for crisis conditions, focusing specifically on students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and concerns about exclusionary practices. Findings suggest that pandemic conditions have exacerbated familiar issues related to the SENCo role and SEND provision in English schools, such as engagement in reactive firefighting, onerous workloads, uneven SENCo involvement in strategic planning, and schools' failure to prioritise students with SEND. Minimal evidence of ‘advocacy leadership’ or of SENCos challenging exclusionary practices was found. As in earlier research, evidence was also found for disparities between anecdotal and published data relating to illegal exclusion.
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