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INCO, ANCO and SENCO: the Special Educational Need

June, 2010
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Confused over some educational terms you hear your son or daughter discussing at school? Do you know what an INCO, an ANCO or a SENCO stands for? Or an I.E.P? Can you be gifted and talented and also have a Special Educational Need? What is a Special Educational Need? Is it the same as a special need? And is that an additional need? This article gives you the rundown on all the special educational terms you need to know.
What is EAL support?
Since my arrival as a Learning Support Teacher and SENCO in Shanghai last year, I have been aware that a lot of the ‘jargon’ in schools is a ‘barrier to learning’ in the first place! A ‘S.E.N.C.O’ for example is short for Special Educational Needs Coordinator-, which means I coordinate the provision for pupils with Special Educational Needs in school together with their teachers and parents.
Some schools call this role an ‘I.N.C.O’, which is short for an ‘Inclusive Coordinator’. This is because as schools, we like to think that we are working towards an inclusive education for all; whatever a pupils’ particular need, difficulty, talent and/or disability. Sometimes, some schools will have a Learning Support Department, which may include an English as an Additional Language (E.A.L) Coordinator and Support Teachers or an ANCO (an Additional Needs Coordinator). It is always important to distinguish between pupils who have additional language needs and those who have special educational needs. Some pupils with EAL may also be assessed as having Special Educational Needs. We need to remember that the use of different languages is not seen as a difficulty in itself and learning in another language is a skill. Our bi and tri-lingual pupils need to see their linguistic abilities as the asset it really is in our multi-lingual society.
So what is a Special Educational Need?
In Britain we have the Special Educational Code of Practice, which has been in place since 1994 and was reviewed again in 2001. It is also linked to the Education Act of 1996 and the Disability Act of 1995 and amended 2005 version. We follow the Code of Practice guidelines as a school.
A Special Educational Need is defined as being present ‘when a child has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age’. They may need extra or different help. The law says that children do not have learning difficulties just because their first language is not English and that is why EAL support is seen as an Additional Need rather than a Special Educational Need. However, we also know that all pupils may need some form of learning support at some point in their school lives. It may be a special need to do with behavior for example; it may be a short term emotional need, such as bereavement or separation, or perhaps a more long term support plan for a specific literacy difficulty. Some pupils may have a disability or a medical condition which may or may not need some learning support. And a child may have a special educational need but also be very gifted and talented.
However we know that ALL children have specific needs at some time or other in their lives. Schools are looking to include the learning needs of all pupils and that is why ‘personalized learning’ is the buzz word at the moment.
In the old days in Britain, pupils with any sort of ‘difficulty’ were often put in a separate class to be taught away from anyone else. Even in the 1950’s AND 1960’s in Britain awful labels were still used in some schools and anyone with a hearing impairment or physical disability would not be allowed or encouraged to be part of a main school. Children with word finding difficulties or Dyslexia were not even acknowledged or helped.
Thankfully times have changed. Schools are encouraged to be “INCLUSIVE”. This means seeing the whole child with their strengths and talents as well as addressing any of learning or other needs that may arise. Often what is good for one child with a specific need can be helpful to another. At a Primary school I worked at in London, we had a young girl who joined a Year 2 class with a severe visual impairment. The school was an old Victorian building with narrow corridors and concrete stairs. However it was decided that as her learning needs could be met by the teachers and teaching assistants in her class, it was only the physical building that needed to be adapted. So to help her climb the stairs to assemblies, the edge of the concrete stairs were painted white. This of course was such a good idea that it helped other children (and staff!) up and down the stairs and it was kept regularly painted, long after she had left!
Similarly at another school in London that I worked in, we had a hearing–impaired unit attached to the main school building, and children with a range of hearing needs from mild to severely deaf were involved in the whole school. They were withdrawn for just short times each day for specific teaching with their specially trained Teachers for the Deaf. This ‘inclusive’ approach benefitted everyone in the school. The whole school was fitted with sound absorbent boards on the ceilings and in the music and hall. This made the school a wonderfully clear sound space for all the children and was similar to the sound quality in a concert hall!!eileen-george-s
This is why we often hear the saying among teachers- “What is good for a pupil with a special educational need will also be good for all pupils!”
By Eileen George,
SENCO and Learning Support Teacher at REGO International School, Shanghai


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