Reflections of a new SEND manager

Written by Thoria King, SEND Manager at the London Borough of Hillingdon

Thoria King is the SEND Manager at the London Borough of Hillingdon. In this blog, she explains how she is finding being a SEND manager just a couple of months of being in the role.

I thought I had one of the most worthwhile jobs in the sector when I worked in prisons. I was, after all, helping people learn skills and gain qualifications to move on in their lives. After just over 19 years, I felt it was time to move on and let somebody else take over the reins.

So I moved to the London Borough of Hillingdon to become the SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) Manager. I have been in post now for eight weeks, and the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) asked me: ‘What’s it like being a new SEND manager?’ Here are my thoughts.

 

Understanding the learners different needs

First, it struck me how much I didn’t know. The learners have such different and varied SEND needs. Initially, I felt a bit overwhelmed by that, but then it occurred to me that I couldn’t be expected to know everything and that I needed to take my time. At times like this, you have to be able to turn to your new colleagues and your team for help and advice. Thankfully they have been brilliant and there is so much expertise in the SEND team at Hillingdon that I could relax and concentrate on being a good manager.

That’s the second thing I realised. That being a curriculum manager in the prison had given me loads of transferable skills to be a good manager. For example, I have good IT skills and I’m organised and get things done. I like to reflect on how things have gone and how I could do things better. I get to apply these organisational and reflective skills in a creative way when I am developing an inclusive curriculum. The people skills I have developed have been really important. In this SEND role the ability to work with different types of people – learners, teachers, learning support staff, carers, parents, care homes and other agencies is key. The interaction with such a wide range of people, especially the learners is what makes the role so interesting.

 

Creating a CPD plan

Lastly, I realised that so much of my previous management experience could be applied to SEND and inform my learning. One of the things I had to do was contribute to the Subject Access Request (SAR) and that was the ideal opportunity to ask questions and find out information. My next big task is to do a CPD plan so I have been researching what is available. In doing that I have been reading and doing quick courses on SEND. That has helped build my confidence on SEND as well as fulfil my management role.

So, eight weeks on and in hindsight, this is the advice would I give myself as a new SEND manager:

  • Be proactive in seeking out information. Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues and get on the internet because there is loads of information out there. The ETF’s SEND Excellence Gateway and Foundation Online Learning are two good examples, but other organisations like JISC SEND materials, and Mencap are great sources of information and resources.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. Use this time as the new person to ask loads of questions and people always want to help.
  • Take responsibility for your own professional development. If you don’t know something, do something about it.
  • Build a network of colleagues that you share information with, talk to and share challenges and collaborate on work together. Go to events and talk to people.

My plans for the future

And what do I want for the next year? To feel settled and to make a difference by improving our provision even more. I’m beginning to realise that this role is even more worthwhile and I can make such a positive impact. And I’m having great fun doing it. If you are considering working with learners with SEND, do take a look at Make a big difference: working with learners with special educational needs and disabilities for more information.

More information on the ETF’s SEND offer and resources can be found on the SEND webpage.

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