Special Educational Needs Coordination (National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination)

The University of Birmingham is a Department for Education and National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) approved provider for the National Award for SEN Co-ordination.

It has been running accredited (Masters level) professional development programmes for special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCos) for over 15 years. Over a thousand SENCos have successfully completed their training over this period and given excellent course feedback!

The University runs partnership versions of the National Award for SEN Co-ordination course with the following Local Authority partners: Birmingham; Dudley, Sandwell & Wolverhampton (combined cohort); Staffordshire (Entrust). Within these Local Authority areas teachers wishing to apply for a place on the course work in a range of maintained mainstream schools, maintained nursery schools, academy and free schools, and pupil referral units (PRUs). SENCos working in other neighbouring Local Authority areas may also be able to join one of the partnership courses (in 2014-2015 for example, SENCos from Derbyshire, Herefordshire, Solihull, Telford and Wrekin and Warwickshire were participating in versions of the course).

This Masters level course (60 credits) has been updated to reflect changes to the NCTL learning outcomes framework. It is also closely aligned to the changes taking place to special educational needs and disability policy, provision and practice in England including the changes to SEN Code of Practice (2015).

We are currently recruiting to this programme. The programme is inviting applications for the following cohort.  

  • Birmingham and Black Country based programmes starting September 2019 .
  • Staffordshire based programmes starting January 2020.

This course will:

  • Enhance your knowledge and skills to effectively support the development of children and young people between 0-25 and their families
  • Create career prospects for practitioners looking to work in leadership positions in organisations which promote and develop inclusion
  • Pave the way to progression to EdD or PhD study for those who wish to pursue higher study
Download the Postgraduate Course Brochure (PDF)

The National Award is a mandatory qualification, 60 Credit Masters level course which all SENCos who are new in role must undertake. The course meets the requirements of the SEN Code of Practice (2015 Section 6.86).

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations (2014) states:

(1) The appropriate authority of a relevant school must ensure that the SENCO appointed under section 67(2) of the Act meets all of the requirements in either paragraph (2) or (3). 

(2) The requirements in this paragraph are that the SENCO:

  • is a qualified teacher;
  • if required to complete an induction period under regulations made under section 135A of the Education Act 2002, has satisfactorily completed such an induction period; and
  • is working as a teacher at the school. 

(3) The requirement in this paragraph is that the SENCO is the head teacher or acting head teacher (or equivalent in the case of an Academy school) of the school. 

(4) Where a person becomes the SENCO at a relevant school after 1st September 2009, and has not previously been the SENCO at that or any other relevant school for a total period of more than twelve months, the appropriate authority of the school must ensure that, if the person is the SENCO at the school at any time after the third anniversary of the date on which that person becomes a SENCO, that person holds the qualification. 

The training courses are 12 months in duration; however, SENCos have up to three years from the point at which they are designated as a SENCo in which to complete the award. Final responsibility for ensuring the school’s compliance lies with the school’s governing body.

The course is designed to support a SENCo’s professional development, giving them an opportunity to reflect upon and improve their practice whilst learning more about the coordination of special educational needs, leadership and management, policy and supporting the individual needs of children and young people.

Related staff

Fees and funding

Fees 2019 - 2020

Course code: 8905 £2,498 (Home/EU), £5,665 (overseas).

Sources of funding

Prospective students find their funding from a number of different sources:

  • Funding by employers or schools
  • Self funding
  • A combination of the above 

There is no central DFE funding available

For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to eligible financial support via the Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan for the duration of their course. For more information visit the gov.uk website.

You can also visit our EU Referendum information page for more information and updates.

Entry requirements

Applicants should be SENCos or aspirant SENCos. All applicants must have 'qualified teacher status' (QTS, QTLS or EYTS) or be teachers with QTS/QTLS/EYTS working in pupil referral units.

As this course has been designed to enable participants to fulfil this strategic role, all applicants must have full support of their school leadership team and be employed in and have access to both an appropriate setting and relevant school based experiences.

Partnership programmes

The course is delivered as part of a partnership between The University of Birmingham and different local authorities and services. We welcome students from outside of these local authority areas.

‘Birmingham’ – This programme is delivered alongside Birmingham local authority. The course takes place in local authority centres in Birmingham and at the University of Birmingham. 

The next cohort for this partnership starts in September 2019 

‘Black Country’ – This programme is delivered alongside Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton local authorities. The course takes place in local authority centres in these localities and at the University of Birmingham.

The next cohort for this partnership starts in September 2019. 

‘Staffordshire’ – This programme is delivered alongside Entrust (The traded arm of Staffordshire local authority) in Stafford.

The next cohort for this partnership starts in January 2020. 

Please make it clear in your application which version of the course you are applying for. 

How to apply

We are currently recruiting for this programme for the following cohorts 

  • Birmingham and Black Country based programmes starting September 2019.
  • Staffordshire based programmes starting January 2020.

Please complete the online application ('Apply now').

Guidance to support completion of the registration form:

Personal Statement

Please record a brief statement of no more than 200 words describing your current role and also record your DfE teacher number in this section.


You will need two references. The first must be from your line manager or Headteacher stating that are willing to support your application for this programme. Please inform your referees as they will contacted directly.

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

The course content is related to local and national contexts and the teaching and learning opportunities are delivered by local and nationally based experts such as experienced teachers, Educational Psychologists, school leaders, Inspectors, therapists and service leads.

The National Award covers: 

  • the role of the SENCo & the statutory framework for SEND (including relevant policy requirements) 
  • effective approaches to identification, assessment and intervention (principles and practice; differentiation – quality first teaching, waves of intervention, individualised education planning)
  • responding to diversity (areas of need) – cognition and learning; communication & interaction; social, emotional and mental health, sensory and/or physical needs 
  • pupil participation, parent partnership & inter-service collaboration 
  • inclusive provision management (effective use of human resources and interventions, and evidence based practice) 
  • developing and sustaining effective SEND leadership (preparation for inspection; whole-school initiatives such as Achievement for All) 
  • Professional development to improve practice. 

The teaching takes place over ten face to face days during term-time. The days are evenly spread over the school year and sessions are taught in local authority/school centres and at the University of Birmingham. In addition, all students have access to the online virtual learning environment and full library facilities to support their learning.   


The assessments have been designed to meet the requirements of the course and enhance school self evaluation procedures.

Specific assignments - course participants all need to complete three 4000 word written assignments at Masters Level:

  • An evaluation: focusing on specific course content and aspects of the SENCo’s role and school based SEN procedures. 
  • A case study:  focusing on in-depth work with a young person and their family.
  • A professional development project presented as a brief ‘research report’ focusing on an aspect of professional development carried out by the SENCo in her/his school or setting.

This course will enable SENCos to meet essential requirements for undertaking the role in English schools. These requirements are set out in regulations and state that:

Governing bodies of maintained mainstream schools, maintained nursery schools and the proprietors of Academy (including Free Schools) must ensure that there is a qualified teacher designated as SENCo for the school.

The SENCo must be a qualified teacher working at the school. A newly appointed SENCO must be a qualified teacher and where they have not previously been the SENCo at that or any other relevant mainstream school for a total period of more than twelve months , they must achieve the National Award in Special Educational Needs Coordination within 3 years of appointment.