So, You’re the SENCO!

Part 4

Between 8:15 and 8:30 am, the official staff start time, Mrs Nest had spoken with nine students and four staff, all of whom needed a quick word.  The TAs had started to trickle in, and the kettle was on a constant boil.  There was some grumbling about TA cover and some rumblings or gossip about one staff member who was too ill to attend on Friday and today but had been seen posting drunken photos of their second cousin twice removed’s wedding at the weekend, on Facebook.  She seemed to be OK then.  Mrs Nest had perfected her poker face and ability to tune out reasonably rapidly.  Well, it wasn’t entirely tuning out; she still heard it but didn’t always process the information immediately.

The office had phoned over asking if she could use a spare pair of hands for periods four and five as they had to pay all day for a supply teacher but had nothing they needed covering.  Mrs Nest resisted the urge to point out it was a stupid question and quickly relayed where she’d like them to go.  Miss Eno hadn’t arrived yet, and she was the cornerstone for period one support.

Fighting mild nausea and an impending panic, Mrs Nest tuned in to a TA reading a text message about the traffic lights being out on the main road, and whoever had sent the message would be about 10 minutes.  Catching their eye, another TA mouthed “Eno”.


Inhale slowly, exhale.   Breathe.

From 8:30 to 8:45, the TAs booted up laptops, chattered, guzzled tea or coffee and dished out resources to students.  Some students popped in their heads to say hi, and others asked for a copy of their timetable or to borrow equipment so that they wouldn’t receive a behaviour point or sanction.  Mrs Nest’s team had gathered spare bank pens and IKEA mini pencils, which they freely distributed to any student who needed one.  On the wall in the office was a copy of the poem, ‘Cuz I ain’t got a pencil’, by Joshua T Dickerson.  Mrs Nest had a similar collection of stationery in her classroom, handbag, coat pocket, car dash, let’s face it, anywhere and everywhere, although woe betide anyone who stole her favourite.

The school behaviour policy was the bane of her life at the moment.  She was all for consistency in basic expectations, but reasonable adjustments have to apply too.  Her students with ADHD needed reminders and visual prompts.  Those with memory issues should be able to borrow things without feeling chastised.  Levi had been in trouble last week for wearing black socks.  Well, one black and one a kind of washed-out grey shade.  The fact he was in school for the first time since Easter was a miracle, and considering the family was currently living in a hostel 8 miles away was ignored.  As was the fact the four siblings were taking turns to use the one bus pass they could afford and hoping no one checked the ID too closely.  Mrs Nest sent Levi home with a tray-bake from the kitchen, and the cook had kept all the leftover unclaimed packed lunches to one side for the family too.  But no, let’s make a fuss over mismatched socks.  Levi hadn’t been in since.


Several times over the last few weeks, Mrs Nest questioned her role and when things had gotten this bad.  In the previous ten years of teaching, she’d seen teaching trends come, go and recycle themselves with new branding.  Teachers didn’t just teach now.  They seemed to be expected to fill all the societal gaps from social care to health.  As an all-through school, they had to teach pupils how to use the toilet because the Sure Start centres that typically supported it shut down.  Some pupils needed assistance with dental hygiene.  Recently, they had bought a toothbrush for every child in year 2, and a couple of them asked what it was, whereas others were excited not to have to share one with siblings.  Older students and not just those in the SEN department needed guidance with personal hygiene.   More than once, the school nurse had to explain to some girls that they needed to change their sanitary towels and not use the same one for their whole cycle or even all day before they disposed of it.  Add to that uniform distribution, food bank and meal voucher dissemination, referrals to services because parents hadn’t or couldn’t do it themselves, assisting with benefits applications and a multitude of other little jobs and there sometimes wasn’t much time for teaching.  Mrs Nest was grateful for the pastoral and welfare team led by heads of year and supported by counsellors, the school nurse and an attendance officer who bore the brunt of the day-to-day churn.  Still, she found herself coordinating and providing guidance on things far from her comfort zone.  Not for the first time, she pondered the reasons for the protracted illness and departure of the previous SENCO.


As the 8:45 bell rang to prompt everyone into classrooms, the office began to empty.  Miss Eno ran in, smiled and nodded at the rearranged cover sheet, said, “not a problem,” and ran back out.  Another relief.

Mrs Nest had no tutor group but did need to check in on a student and then should be teaching periods one and two.  Leaving her laptop balanced on the pile of papers, she grabbed her photocopies and made her way over to the tutor room and teaching space.

It was definitely a normal Monday morning