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19 February 2024

NPQ for SENCOs: A new qualification for the sector

As we launch the NPQ for SENCOs, our Head of NPQs Jo Facer delves into what is different about the new qualification and what this means for SEND provision.
Jo Facer, Head of NPQs at the NIoT

Speak to any school leader, and the experience and achievement of pupils with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) will normally be among their top priorities – and for good reason. The leaders we work with at the NIoT have shared that there are more pupils being identified with SEND in their provisions each year, and that the complexity of those needs is increasing. At the same time, the achievement of pupils with SEND nationally is a real concern: in 2022-23, while 51% of pupils with no identified SEND achieved grade 5 in English and Maths, only 17% of pupils with SEND did.

Never has the role of the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) been more critical. SENCOs are charged with supporting arguably the most vulnerable pupils in a school to access the curriculum, achieve, and flourish academically and socially. We hope that the new National Professional Qualification (NPQ) for SENCOs will support colleagues in this vitally important work.

A new qualification for the sector

The NPQ for SENCOs is now mandatory for all SENCOs within their first three years in role, and it replaces the Masters level national award that preceded it (NASENCO). This change forms an important part of the DfE’s SEND and Alternative provision Improvement Plan, which was published in March 2023.

Part of this shift from Masters level to NPQ is to make the qualification more flexible for serving school leaders, though the NPQ for SENCOs framework retains a robust research base and academic focus, and our programme will cover this through flexible, online self-study.

A key difference with this new qualification, however, is the emphasis on practice and application. This programme will not only ensure SENCOs have the core knowledge necessary for their role – ranging from the complex needs of pupils, to compliance with statutory legislation, to organising their school’s provision – but will also practice application, so they can bring excellent practices back to their own contexts and see them work with their own pupils.

The NPQ for SENCOs with the NIoT

Through full-day local sessions, participants will unpick key ideas, practise dealing with common challenges, collaborate with colleagues and plan for application back at school. Through virtual online school visits, they will explore exemplary provision for SEND pupils in a range of settings. Through online masterclasses, they will hear directly from expert, serving SENCOs how they have developed provisions that lead to exceptional outcomes and joyful school experiences for pupils with SEND. Finally, through small group coaching participants will work with peers, led by serving SENCOs, to explore common challenges and find a path forward.

Feedback from participants and Headteachers of our current suite of NPQs has emphasised that NIoT programmes have already led to a real, tangible impact on the experiences of pupils and colleagues in participants’ school contexts. All children deserve an excellent education, and those with identified SEND are no exception. We look forward to seeing the impact our participant SENCOs go on to have in their settings in transforming the experiences and opportunities for those who most need our nurturing, support, and unparalleled classroom experiences.

Interested in applying? 

Find out more about the programme here.

We expect to formally launch applications in the Summer and for our first cohort to begin in October 2024. However we welcome anyone interested in this new qualification to express their interest here to be the first to know when applications open.

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