Special educational needs co-ordinators' (SENCOs) definition of their roles and experience in the promotion of the integrated education in Hong Kong schools

Ming Tak HUE

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers

Abstract

The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) is a teacher responsible for the implementation of policies relating to the inclusion of students with special educational needs (SEN) at various levels of schooling in the mainstream setting. The UK has taken the leading role in SEN coordination since the early 1990s (DFE, 1994). Before 1994, there was no formal requirement for schools to appoint such a teacher. However, the 1994 Code (DFE, 1994) placed a statutory obligation on all schools to identify a specialist teacher to coordinate provision for pupils with SEN, and it described the roles and responsibilities of the SENCO.

In the UK, a dominant theme in SENCO research in the past decade has been the extent to which the role is concerned with aspects of leadership and management (e.g., Cole, 2005; Layton, 2005; Rosen-Webb, 2011; Tissot, 2013). The role of SENCOs have been debated in the literature (Norwich, 2010; Oldham & Radford, 2011), specifically concerning whether it should be a specialist role or a more generic management role. An individual's interpretation and enactment of the role of SENCO – as specialist or management, or somewhere in between – depends on the individual (Kearns, 2005) and school-level factors (Blandford, 2013). While the UK schools are exploring effective ways for assuring the effective functioning of SENCOs, Hong Kong followed the footstep of the UK by introducing a similar position in 2015. Through a pilot scheme in 2015, a total of 124 schools, including 65 secondary schools and 59 primary schools, were included. The final evaluation report of the pilot scheme concluded that although there was variation in the roles of SENCOs in different schools, it was clear that they were engaging in more strategic activity as the new role develops (Education Bureau, 2018). In addition, two studies (Poon-McBrayer & Wong, 2013; Poon-McBrayer, 2017) investigating the roles of principal leadership on HK schools' inclusive education reforms found that principals expressed the significance to forge partnerships with middle leaders such as SENCOs for the effective implementation of the integrated education. Most principals also attempted to empower SENCOs to assume a leadership role by formalizing the SENCO position as a leadership position along with varying degrees of decision making power.

Given that the roles of SENCOs in practice often do not match policy expectations and that there is lack of studies informing school mangers of the arrangement of SENCOs for SEN support, and the 'live' experience of SENCOs in the promotion of the integrated education has not yet been fully unfolded. The paper reports the initial findings of an on-going interview study, with the involvement of 20 SENCOs and 20 teachers who co-work closely with SENCOs from 20 schools. It aims to explore the roles and responsibilities of SENCOs and to examine the discrepancy between policy and practice and the functioning of a carrying system for SEN support. The implications for the effective functioning of SENCOs and the building of an effective support system for Integrated Education will be given. Copyright © 2019 6th LSME International Research Conference.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

Citation

Hue, M.-T. (2019, July). Special educational needs co-ordinators' (SENCOs) definition of their roles and experience in the promotion of the integrated education in Hong Kong schools. Paper presented at The 6th London School of Management Education (LSME) International Research Conference on 'Responsible Research and Innovations in Management and Human Sciences', London, UK.

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