10 ways to save time as a SENCO

Struggling to find enough hours in the day? Ginny Bootman offers tips for SENCOs to work smarter, not harder

Author details

Ginny Bootman is a SENCO who has over 25 years’ experience as a class teacher, having also been a headteacher. She is now SENCO of two primary schools in Northamptonshire. Her passion for the role which empathy plays in the job of the class...

As SENCOs, we are short of time with much to do. Any ways to save time are always welcome, and I advise you to triage your time. Have that in the forefront of your mind, which will help you manage your time more effectively.

My top 10 time-saving tips

1. Save everything you can digitally

By doing this and saving it onto a cloud, you are making everything accessible without having to rely on being at the same place to access information.

It is fascinating how many teachers still rely on their school ‘server’ as moving to cloud-based storage gives much more freedom. This is useful as a SENCO of four schools as my information is always with me.

2. Meet virtually

Consider the best ways to have meetings by thinking outside the school buildings. Recently we have become more adept at having online meetings so suggest this option when organising a meeting.

The time I save by not having to go to a school simply for a meeting when I have been at another school for the rest of the day quickly mounts up. If in doubt, ask if this way of meeting suits staff; you may be surprised how many people are happy to meet virtually.

Find sure-fire ways to help you zone into that paperwork you’ve been meaning to do for ages.

3. Organise your meetings

Give your meetings a start and finish time. It may seem obvious, but meetings can take longer than necessary. A start and finish time puts pay to wasting everyone’s time.

This is true for meetings with parents and staff. Everyone is busy, time is precious, and it saves everyone’s time.

4. Ask questions

Find out what time of day suits those who are going to attend a meeting. Parents work and have commitments. Staff have commitments. Presume nothing.

Ask when suits others alongside what time suits you. When people feel that they have been consulted, they generally have a better mindset than being told what to do.

5. Digitise forms

Before you do a referral to an outside agent, send a generic form to your administrator to complete with information that appears on all forms, such as:

  • date of birth
  • attendance
  • ethnicity
  • first language.

This information can then efficiently be utilised when completing a form without bothering your administrator or going to the filing cabinet to find the information. By getting someone else to pass this information to you electronically, the amount of time saved is noticeable.

6. Consider an electronic diary

This is powerful as it shows everyone around us what we can and can’t achieve timewise. We are all keen to do so much but only have limited time in a day.

By recording what we will do, we are time-checking ourselves and, if necessary, showing others what we have achieved in the time we are given to do our role.

7. Have a live ‘to-do’ list

If you are anything like me, your notebook is full of lists and, at the end of the week, becomes a sorrowful testament to what I have failed to achieve.

I try as much as I can to allocate ‘to dos’ in my weekly calendar overview as timed slots. This is not my natural way of doing things, but I realise it works and becomes a robust system.

It also means that I can arrange to do things in advance, so it stops me from overloading. I can also liaise with individuals regarding meetings, so everyone gets that breathing time to prepare. Ask yourself, ‘when does this meeting need to take place?’

8. Find a good working place

Where do you work? We have so much paperwork to do as a SENCO. We need to find ourselves somewhere we can work undisturbed to get on.

I have an office (it’s actually a cupboard) that I have made my own. I have a fake window which is a mirror, and lots of artificial lighting in the form of strings of lights. I have pictures painted by the children hung up on the walls.

It is my place to get on undisturbed. If I am working in one of my schools in a room with others, I put a pair of headphones on. It helps me zone into my work and out of anything else happening around me. Find sure-fire ways to help you zone into that paperwork you’ve been meaning to do for ages but haven’t quite gotten around to.

You may be surprised how many people are happy to meet virtually.

9. Say ‘no’ if you need to

We are allowed to say ‘no.’ Be ready to politely challenge those individuals who ask you to do something which isn’t in your remit. This top tip is because if we say yes to them once, they will ask us again.

Nipping this in the bud early on stops more difficult conversations further down the line. ‘But you did that for Belinda last week’ becomes a non-existent conversation and stops you from inadvertently setting a precedent.

10. Be with the children

We are all bogged down with paperwork and need to find those ‘gem times’ to be with the children we care about. Go for a walk outside at playtime and chat with the children. Have a corridor chat. Greet them as they arrive in the morning.

I love these times, especially when the children and I converse about a topic we have previously chatted about. It gives me the connection that I need and the energy to keep going with that paperwork I have been putting off completing.

Last Updated: 
03 Nov 2022