The Developing Role of the Special Education Needs Coordinater: an Evaluation Study on the Effects of an RTLB Project, which Provided a Wrap around Special Education Needs Coordinator Service to All of the Schools within Its Region
The purpose of this mixed methods study was to investigate the systems level intervention which was initiated by an RTLB (Resource Teachers’ of Learning and Behaviour) cluster, through EPF (enhancing programming funding) and with local Principals’ Association support in order to improve the SENCo (special education needs coordinator) service (outcomes for students) within the region. This intervention based on an inclusive paradigm involved creating dedicated SENCo positions within each of 19 schools involved and assisting in setting up special need’s committees, gaining release time for SENCos, negotiating and arranging professional development, developing a reporting system for SENCos, developing interagency collaboration and fostering a community of practise among the SENCos. This study found that the RTLB cluster, working collaboratively with the local principals, successfully initiated the EPF application in order to aid in the creation of the SENCo positions within all of the schools in the region, along with leading the project of professional development and supporting SENCos in schools in order to provide a better service for special education students within the region. New Zealand’s education system historically either ignored students with special education needs or placed them into special settings. Special education and the Tomorrow Schools policy provided the next step toward inclusive practices. However, the tools to implement shifts in paradigm are found through; professional development, communities of practice, collaborative-consultative approaches, teacher/school change and the management and facilitation of the transfer of learning. The research clearly indicates that further investigation is needed to understand the role of the SENCo within New Zealand schools. Is there a place for SENCos in our post Special Education 2000 schools? Do; release time, PD, professional support and role development affect the SENCo role and does a SENCo service impact on the service provided to students with special educational needs? There is much scope for future research within this area. It would be interesting to follow what happens with this group of SENCos in the long term. A longitudinal study of this kind would be able to answer questions about the long term implications and outcomes that may arise. Do the systems put in place lead to more inclusive classroom practices within the region and better outcomes of the students? Is this fledgling community of practice maintained and do the SENCos take up the mantle of change agents within their schools? It would also be worthwhile to look at the other two clusters who have initiated their own versions of this project. Undertaking case studies for schools which create SENCo positions would shed further light on what works and what doesn’t at the school level and the outcomes for students with special educational needs.