Insights From a SENDCO: An Interview With Louise Lawn

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn

  • About the experience of a SENDCO.
  • Gain insight into how the education and SEND industry works and the current challenges in the industry.
  • How to find and apply for the best SENDCO jobs.

Are you looking for expert advice and insights from a professional Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator (SENDCO)? In our new feature blog, we caught up with Louise Lawn to discover the responsibilities of a SENDCO and her tips and plans for further education in the future.

With over 10 years experience working within London schools, Louise has continuously developed her knowledge and become an expert in her field. From a brief career in Human Resource Management, to Service Manager and a SEND Teacher, Louise will soon be going into her second year as a SENDCO.

From her passion for creating a positive difference in the lives of individuals with learning disabilities, to the female role models that have influenced and inspired Louise, discover the challenges Louise’s faces to support students with SEND.

Throughout this interview, you will get an inside look into the routine and responsibilities of a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator in this insightful interview with a professional in the industry.

Tell us about your career journey so far Louise

I had grown up hearing about the closure of the long stay hospitals and felt compelled to support those individuals that had thus far been given a raw deal in life. I was privileged to work for an amazing organisation established to support the closure of the long stay hospitals and adults with learning disabilities to live for the first time in the community.

I remember being in awe of the all-female senior leadership team, feeling a sense of pride in the organisation that I proudly called home for 11 years. I went from strength to strength in this nurturing environment, starting as a Project Worker working my way up to Service Manager. 

I went on to retrain in 2011/2012 to become a Primary School Teacher, undertaking my PGCE at Brunel University. I was extremely fortunate to be offered a role at Marjory Kinnon School in Bedfont by December 2011 while undertaking my PGCE, so the pressure was now on to ensure I passed.

I rose to the challenge and proudly started there in September 2012. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and worked there in both KS3 and KS4 for 8 years. 

I happened to be looking at a few jobs and came across one that sounded like a good challenge. The role was supporting a nurture class in a secondary mainstream school and seeing them through to year 11. I have now been proudly working at Oak Wood School since 2020 and moved into my role as SENDCO for KS4 and KS5 in March 2022.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me can seem full on but I wouldn’t have it any other way - I love being on the go. Typically, my alarm goes off at 5am and I have the tasks of getting myself and my 6-year-old son ready for the day, as well as doing some housework, before leaving the house at 7am.

I am extremely lucky to have the best childcare in the world, my parents. My son gets dropped off at Nanny and Grandads before I embark on my journey to school.

I normally manage to arrive at school at 7:45am and depending on the day, I could have gate duties, or meetings with external professionals, parents or Heads of Year. It honestly varies from day to day. I love this aspect of my job, no day is the same.

I am currently teaching AQA Step-up to English, Entry Level Certificate and AQA Science Entry Level Certificate to my nurture class now in Year 10 and they are making tremendous progress with their transition to KS4.

In-between teaching, I may have home visits, annual reviews or one-on-one meetings with students, so there is never a dull day. When the end of the workday comes, it's then off on another adventure with my son and his after school activities including Beavers, tennis, art and horse riding.

Then I fit in time to make dinner, get homework completed, reading and spellings, leading into his bedtime between 7pm and 8pm. I often fall asleep for a bit then wake up and do some work from home in the evenings by choice.

What does your job consist of?

The SEND division is the only department that works with all departments across the schools and a wide variety of professionals.

In an average week, my job involves delivering training and SEN briefings, coaching and mentoring, and meeting with parents of other professionals. I am also in charge of organising access arrangements, management of interventions, and educational testing to ensure students are receiving the support they should be getting.

What would you consider to be the most important task of the day?

Checking in on key pupils is the top priority along with checking in with Teaching Assistants to see how they are getting along.

Who do you work with on a regular basis?

I regularly work with different departments, Heads of Year and Line Management, alongside other professionals whether they be internal or external such as Place2Be, CAMHs, local authority SEN teams, post 16 provision providers and parents.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I find that the most challenging part of my job is trying to manage expectations and deadlines, which means that organisation and interpersonal skills are key in my role! 

How do you keep up-to-date with changes in the industry?

I am signed up to a wide variety of external organisations that send out updates and news to read, such as Nasen and the British Psychological Society. In addition to this, I find social media forums a good place to share ideas and make connections with other SENDCOs. 

What is the best thing about working as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator and what do you enjoy most about the role?

I enjoy all aspects of my job, however without a doubt the best part is supporting a student who was once struggling and seeing them succeed and flourish. I thoroughly enjoy being able to support and work alongside families to ensure that we work as a team for the betterment of the student. 

In addition to this, I am highly motivated to succeed and I enjoy pushing my own boundaries of what I thought possible of myself. 

What have you learned so far in your career?

I have learnt in my career (so far) to ensure that I always look at events through the eyes of the student and parent/carer. 

What would you say has been your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement regarding work is completing and passing 3 courses within the past 18 months! I’ve completed the National Professional Qualification in Leading Teacher Development, the National Award for SEN coordination and the Certificate in Psychometric Testing Assessment and Access Arrangements.

What obstacles have you had to face in your career?

I would say the biggest obstacle for me during my career has been when individuals underestimate what people are capable of achieving. 

How have things changed or progressed in the industry?

I am relatively new to this post, however I feel that within the area of SEND there needs to be more available for students with anxiety who are struggling to access schools.

In addition to this, more schools should have specialised provision for nurture classes, so that students who need extra support have more schools to choose from when parents are looking for provision for their child within an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Who are some of your role models?

I remember as an 18 year old watching the film Erin Brockovich and being absolutely in awe of this lady who was fighting for what she believed in against the odds. This struck a chord in me and I have carried this with me always.

I admire strong women throughout history who have defied the odds and show that you can have everything without having to sacrifice your career or family in order to do so. 

How do you deal with stress or the pressures of your job?

Here are some of the tips that I found have worked for me:

  • Talking to a friend or colleague at work. Sometimes having a different perspective can help.
  • Taking 5 or 10 minutes for yourself during the day to grab a tea or coffee and sit and talk with a friend/colleague about non work-related topics.
  • Where possible, wait to deal with an email or situation until the next day. You’ll be refreshed and might see the situation differently then.
  • Having things outside of work to help you switch off. This could be a hobby or just something small like family movie night.

What do you feel can be done to support pupils with SEND in the classroom?

A greater understanding from all adults of their needs and how they can best support them to thrive. Remember that it's equity not equality.

Do you have any tips or advice for someone new or up-and-coming in the industry?

Be kind to yourself, especially if you make mistakes, forgive yourself and carry on moving forward. Set yourself small rewards each month as a treat to look forward to especially the darker nights.

What are your plans for the future?

The sky's the limit for me, I am looking to transfer my Masters Level credits towards a Masters of Education in SEND. In addition to this, I want to achieve my National Professional Qualification in Senior Leadership.

Finally, I have heard that they may be releasing a National Professional Qualification in SEND so I want to achieve this all within the next two years. Then I will look and see what path my career takes me on, into Senior Leadership roles perhaps.  

SEND jobs

If you’re searching for your next SENDCO job, why not get in touch with our Divisional Manager, Richard Shorrock, to find the best temporary, interim or permanent SENDCO jobs on the market now.

Alternatively, upload your CV to receive notifications when relevant job opportunities become available.

If you found this advice and expertise helpful, why not check out these blogs?

Local authority SEND recruitment services

As an award winning SEND recruitment agency in the UK, we support local authorities all over the UK with their recruitment needs. 

We can supply SEND staff for:

  • Service redesign - Mid to senior hires across the SEND service to assist in service restructure.
  • Annual review backlogs - Including multiple hire projects to assist councils in removing Education Health & Care Plans backlogs. 
  • Appointing Executives & Directors e.g Directors of Education / Heads of Service. 
  • SEND/EHC Case workers who can hold annual review meetings, liaise with families, education settings and professionals as appropriate, preparing and following up in line with the SEND Code of Practice processes. SEND/EHC Case workers can also amend plans where appropriate, working through your governance/approval arrangements.

Share your experience

Every individual brings a unique set of experiences, thoughts, and insights to the table. We believe in giving a voice to a community of professionals to inspire positive change and champion reform in the SEND sector.  

If you work in the SEND sector and would like to share your own personal and professional experiences, we’d love to hear from you. Perhaps you have a different perspective, could offer a fresh angle, or want to challenge assumptions. 

Simply reach out to our Head of Content, Nicole Sherwood, to discuss a collaboration which makes your voice count. 

Who is Spencer Clarke Group?

Based in Lancashire, we’ve been reshaping and revolutionsing the recruitment industry since 2017. Our dedication to driving positive change is evident in every aspect of our organisation’s values and business practices.

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