Why SBMs should encourage SEN support staff scholarship applications
I know some of you may wonder what the subject of this article has got to do with school business managers, but as you know our roles are diverse and there are many of us who are responsible for the CPD of our staff, not just in finance but all of the support staff and I am one of those SBMs. So, it was with great delight that I read the article on the DfE website headed: £500,000 scholarship scheme launched for SEN support staff. Brilliant news and I’m sure that there will be numerous SEN staff around the country queuing for this funding. SEN staff play an integral role in the development and learning of students throughout schools, with the majority being supported by teaching assistants. The article published on the DfE website on 18 April states:
Our roles are diverse and there are many of us who are responsible for the CPD of our staff, not just in finance but all of the support staff
‘Hundreds of school support staff are to get degree-level and specialist training in helping children with SEND, under a new £500,000 programme set out by Children's Minister Sarah Teather. The annual SEN support scholarship programme will provide up to £2,000 each to boost the skills of talented teaching assistants and school staff who work with children with SEN. The scholarship cash will fund staff through rigorous, specialist courses and qualifications.’
About the scholarship
The fund was instigated by the Ministry of State for Children and Families to encourage and support SEN support staff in continuing to improve their knowledge of SEN and enhance their ability to support the teaching and learning of pupils with SEN. It is hoped that this will also lead to the sharing of learning, knowledge and expertise across the school system, and to increasing public perception of SEN support staff as scholars.
The stated aims of the SEN support scholarship are to:
- Foster high expectations of those working to support disabled pupils and pupils with SEN in the classroom.
- Strengthen knowledge and understanding of SEN and disability, both in support staff and across the school.
- Open up career opportunities for SEN support staff and enable them to have more control of their careers.
- Share learning, knowledge and expertise across the school system.
- Bring about a culture change to create expectations within the sector about the importance of scholarship throughout a support staff’s career.
Although this funding and training is welcome, in my opinion it doesn’t go far enough
The importance of highly-skilled support staff
The DFE also identifies that the best schools proved that highly-skilled support staff could be crucial in raising standards. I think I disagree with the ‘could be’; school leaders have been aware for a long time that skilled support staff, together with teaching staff, are at the forefront of school improvement and raising standards. It’s just a pity that there are still those other staff in schools who still do not recognise this (or maybe I should say they do not want to recognise this).
School leaders have been aware for a long time that skilled support staff, together with teaching staff, are at the forefront of school improvement and raising standards. It’s just a pity that there are still those other staff in schools who still do not recognise this
This National Scholarship will help SEN staff to gain a qualification that will assist them in developing their specialist knowledge further and pursue a teaching career in the future if they wish. However, the scholarship only provides 50 per cent of the course costs up to a ceiling of £2000 and is open to support staff who hold A level or equivalent qualifications or hold higher level teaching assistant (HLTA) status. It will fund staff to take a wider range of degree-level equivalent qualifications and specialist diplomas in specific impairments such as dyslexia or autism.
The application process
Applications for this funding are going to be highly competitive and opened on Monday 30th April 2012. Applications must be completed online, with the deadline being midnight on Thursday 17th May 2012. The DfE are being particular about the application process and any application sent by any other means will be rejected. They will also not consider any applications being delayed because of ICT failure, so be warned, follow the instructions to the letter. The only considerations being taken into account are for those applicants with a special need or disability. The DfE website provides detailed eligibility criteria.
Applicants will be required to submit a supporting statement from their headteacher with the application declaring that the applicant has the support of the school and is able to complete the activities and demonstrate impact. Applications will not be accepted if this statement is not included.
Guidance also states that the awarding of scholarships is highly competitive and that applications will be assessed and scored against rigorous criteria. The assessment process will be verified by an eminent panel of external experts which reflect the prestigious nature of the fund. SBMs with responsibility for SEN staff and/or CPD should provide as much support as possible with the application, as should the SEN Coordinator.
There is a handbook available on the DfE website for applicants which should be read before completing the application form. It is also imperative that you have everything that is requested to hand before completing the form as: ‘the form cannot be saved and will need to be completed in one sitting’. A recommendation is also given to place your answers on a separate document and then paste into the application form.
National Award for SEN Coordination
This is an ideal opportunity for your staff to become specialists
One thing I thought I would mention, just to upset the apple cart, is that there is also a national scholarship to train 1000 new SENCOs through the Master's-level National Award for SEN Coordination.
However, they get a maximum of £3500 in comparison to the support staff scholarship allocation of £2000. Now I suppose I could argue that a Master’s is a more expensive qualification, but it’s not the point!
Regardless of the funding costs, though, I hope you will support your staff through this process and encourage them to apply. This is an ideal opportunity for your staff to become specialists and to share their skills across not only their own school but across a range of schools.