Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > SENCOs in England: career trajectory, CPD and a...

Electronic data

  • 2022deviphd

    Final published version, 4.43 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 17/06/27

Text available via DOI:

View graph of relations

SENCOs in England: career trajectory, CPD and a leadership model through identity and agency

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Anita Devi
Publication date2022
Number of pages219
Awarding Institution
  • Cin, Melis, Supervisor, External person
Award date14/06/2022
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This study examines continuous professional development opportunities for Special Educational Need Co-ordinators (SENCOs) in England beyond the National SENCO Award (NASENCO) and in doing so, further thought is given to career trajectories, and the prospect of a SEND leadership model to define SENCO identity to enhance SENCO agency. Using a conceptual framework, this research utilises the triad of identity, agency, and power to demonstrate how policy and practice can play a greater role in determining SENCO impact and effectiveness (Smith & Broomhead, 2019). The case presented in this study suggests that if SENCOs focus on leadership, as opposed to management, this gives them greater agency to enact their vision for change, as well as empower them in meeting the needs of children and young people; whilst simultaneously supporting them to grow and utilise their power more effectively across a whole-setting team. Unlike legislation, a model focusing on policy and practice embraces flexibility to cater for localised variants (Garner, 2011; Tissot, 2013; Done et al., 2016) and wider unexpected eventualities like COVID19 (Clarke & Done, 2021; Hallet, 2021). The findings highlight a potential perverse incentive to investing in continuous professional development opportunities for SENCOs, due to fear of them moving on and settings then having to re-recruit. What also emerges from the data is that retention is best supported, if considered thought and structure is given to professional development and a career trajectory at the time of recruitment. This is an area currently unresearched. Collectively, one hundred and fifty SENCOs in England took part in different segments of this qualitative research design, which included a preliminary evaluation study, under Part 1 of the PhD programme. This set assignment laid the foundation for my main study which consisted of focus groups, questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews. This thesis builds on previous studies that have looked at different aspects the SENCO role and the SENCO as a leader, including how a more strategic approach would attract more males to the profession (Woolhouse, 2015, Pulsford, 2020). This thesis adds to the body of knowledge in this area by primarily putting forward a SEND Leadership model, which can support future effective recruitment and retention through structured continuous professional development.