"That's tricky": exploring SENCOs' accounts of their relationships with parents
By K. A. Robinson.
In the past 15 years educational literature and policy have highlighted the importance of parent-school relationships in the attainment and life achievements of all children and young people, in particular those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SENID). Recent changes in legislation relating to SENID promote 'person-centred' approaches to working with children, young people and their families, and recommend that they are fully involved in decisions made about support, aspirations and achievement (Dill, 2015). This study adopted a Foucauldian approach to analyse semi-structured interview data from three Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) employed in maintained primary schools within a large London Borough, where the researcher was a Trainee Educational Psychologist (TEP). The study sought to add to the growing body of literature exploring the barriers and facilitators to parent-school relationships. It explored constructions of the 'relationship' present in the accounts given by SENCOs with a view to deconstructing and analysing embedded assumptions or discourses that may perpetuate unbalanced power relations. It explored the positioning of parents and SENCOs within these discourses and subsequent implications for action and subjective experience. The results imply that conflicting discourses within educational rhetoric make it difficult for SENCOs to adopt partnership relationships with parents and that wider changes may be necessary to create a more equitable climate. Implications for professional practice are considered and it is proposed that through their work with parents, schools and SENCOs, EPs are well placed to promote reflexive practices and person-centred, collaborative approaches to working with children, young people and their families.