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11 Time-Saving Tips For Busy SENDCOs

By Ginny Bootman

 

Saving time is so important and is always at the forefront of any busy SENDCO’s mind. The issue is that we never seem to have enough of it; so here are 11 top tips to find more time.

 

  1. Just say no. It seems a bit direct, doesn’t it? But sometimes we do need to be direct. Ask yourself; is what someone is asking me to do actually part of my job? If you’re unsure, just ask your line managers. And just because they say, “Ginny, you’re so good at filling in forms”, doesn’t mean I want to or should be filling in forms for other people. Just because “Ginny, you’re really good with people”, doesn’t mean I should end up tackling all of the tricky conversations. By nature, SENDCOs are kind and caring individuals who don’t want to offend others. By saying no, you are looking after yourself, which is something that all SENDCOs need to prioritise more often.

 

  1. “I’m not available.” We are allowed to be unavailable at times. We truly are. Try it and you will realise that people understand that we are not on call 24/7. I was working with a family recently and had to say that I wasn’t available on a couple of dates and times they suggested and guess what? We just found another suitable time.We often don’t try things for fear of how we will be perceived. Others know that we are human and acknowledge that as a given.

 

  1. Robust systems help us find time. When I’m talking about robust systems, I’m talking about, in the first instance, having a system in place for when teachers are concerned about a child in their class. Rather than teachers coming straight to the SENDCOs and having a hurried and often somewhat incoherent conversation, consider how to make this a more robust system. If you have termly pupil progress meetings, consider this to be a mechanism for discussing children with additional needs and putting systems in place to support them. Some schools even have an electronic system whereby teachers complete forms to identify the areas that they think a child is struggling in. Once again, this is a system that does not rely on ‘incidental’ conversations.

 

  1. Triaging our time. They do this in accident and emergency rooms, so why shouldn’t we adopt it in our working days? Do we need to do something this minute, today, or dare I say it, this week? Everyone is busy, so ask yourself: does this person really want a meeting ‘foisted’ on them today? They probably already have their day mapped out, so we are inadvertently putting a metaphoric ‘spanner in the work’ of their day. If the conversation allows it, why not even push the meeting back to, dare I say it… next week?

 

  1. Map out your days. I like to try and plan out my time for each day. If I see that my day is back-to-back with meetings, I try not to shoehorn any more tasks ‘to do’ in because I know that they will become ‘haven’t done’, which makes me feel as if I haven’t achieved.

 

  1. Set out timescales. I think it is important that others know how much time certain tasks take. In the role of a SENDCO, we often just get on with things without others realising how long these tasks actually take. Why not put together a list of your tasks and note down how long each one takes to complete? Or even better, get your headteacher to sit down with you and complete a referral together. Doing this is a real eye-opener for those working in SLT to understand how we are triaging our time and acknowledge that there must be a timescale provided for any task we need to complete.

 

  1. Using a diary. As SENDCOs, we are so busy and must manage our diaries so carefully to make sure that we’re at the right place, at the right time and with the right people. I am a strong advocate of the electronic diary; it works across all my devices, so I always have it with me. However, I know other SENDCOs who like to have their physical diary with them as a comfort blanket, so it’s just about knowing what works best for you.

 

  1. Meetings: physical, hybrid or online? Consider how best to have a meeting. I always used to have in-person meetings, but I now realise in this new hybrid world we live in that virtual meetings can be quite useful. I now give choices for a meeting to be in person, over a video call or a phone call. Giving options brings people together, as they feel valued and can also save us precious time. it’s a win-win situation, in my opinion.

 

  1. The ongoing email debate. Sending and replying to emails is an ongoing discussion. So, here is my take on it… If we answer emails outside of school hours, then others will think that we are happy to do this.I often hear people say, “But what will people think if I don’t answer emails quickly?” To this, I say they will understand that you reply at a time which suits you. Try it – you’ll be surprised at how liberating it is.

 

  1. Schedule where you can. Whilst we are on the topic of emails, let’s consider the use of the ‘schedule send’ facility. If you haven’t used it yet, please do look it up on Google or YouTube. It allows you to write emails in advance, at a time which suits you and then set the time at which you’d like the email to be sent. I like my emails to be received in others’ working hours, so I set mine to go out during the average working day.

 

  1. Set boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘life’. Whenever I do talks, this always gets a sharp intake of breath from members of the audience, so here goes… Consider removing school email from your phone. Doing this gives you ownership over your own time and allows you to set a boundary between your work and home life. If you need a middle ground, just turn off email notifications so that they don’t ping up constantly, but you can check it at a time that suits you.

 

I guess what I’m saying is let’s look at being in more control of our time. Consciously triaging helps us to stop and think about how we are managing our time and consider how it impacts others.