Guidance

Transition to national professional qualification for special educational needs co-ordinators

Updated 2 February 2024

Applies to England

Mandatory qualification for special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs)

In September 2009 it became law for every new SENCO in a mainstream school to gain the Master’s level national award for special educational needs co-ordinator (NASENCO) within 3 years of starting the job.

The leadership level national professional qualification (NPQ) will become the mandatory qualification for SENCOs from September 2024, replacing the NASENCO qualification. Teaching of the NPQ for SENCOs will begin in autumn 2024.

This was announced in the Department for Education’s SEND and alternative provision improvement plan in March 2023.

We will update this page as further detail on the transition to the new NPQ becomes available. We will also update the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 before September 2024 to reflect the changes.

National professional qualifications

NPQs are designed to:

  • support teachers and leaders to develop expertise in specialist areas of teaching practice and school leadership
  • deliver improved outcomes for schools and young people

They are designed using the latest evidence. They can be completed around professionals’ existing commitments.

The NPQ for SENCOs content framework sets out what participants should know and be able to do after completing the qualification.

Leadership NPQ courses last between 18 and 22 months, including the time to undertake assessment and receive results. Approved NPQ providers will determine the course structure, content, and method of delivery.

Special educational needs co-ordinator’s national professional qualification provides further information about the delivery model, providers, and start date.

Requirements for SENCOs

SENCOs who have already obtained the NASENCO do not need to complete the SENCO NPQ.

From September 2024, all SENCOs and aspiring SENCOs will need to:

  • take the NPQ if they have not completed or started the NASENCO
  • complete training within 3 years of appointment - schools and SENCOs must make sure they enrol on training that will meet this requirement

SENCOs appointed before 1 September 2009 are not be required to take the NPQ, but will be expected to ensure compliance with the regulations.

SENCOs enrolled on NASENCO courses

SENCOs can continue to sign up for the NASENCO qualification until the end of the academic year 2023 to 2024.

SENCOs enrolled on a NASENCO course starting in the 2023 to 2024 academic year will be considered to have fulfilled the mandatory training as long as they complete it within 3 years of their appointment.

SENCOs starting in role during the 2023 to 2024 academic year

To meet the statutory requirements for the role, SENCOs starting in post during the 2023 to 2024 academic year should do one of the following:

  • start the NASENCO before September 2024
  • enrol on an NPQ course starting no later than Spring 2025

Aspiring SENCOs

Aspiring SENCOs wishing to complete the NASENCO must begin the course before September 2024 to meet the requirements.