Perceptions and Views Regarding the Role of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinators (SENDCos) and Challenges Affecting the Role in the United Arab of Emirates (UAE)

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
It is noticeable that the UAE represents a unique context where many social and economic changes have been made over the last few decades. These considerable changes have undoubtedly put pressure on the education sector which has to respond to new demands for varied teachings methods and curricula to be used with all students to meet international standards. On the other hand, there is an obvious need for improvement in schools’ inclusive practices. The expectations of the special and inclusive education have been rapidly increased over the last decade. Therefore, it is significant to introduce a person, such as the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities coordinator (SENDCo), who is able to lead the inclusion movement and bear the brunt of these changes in every school. Specific roles and responsibilities, yet flexible, can be allocated to that person to maintain consistency in his/her work and provide clear understanding about his/her roles. However, like many other countries, the UAE faces many significant social, cultural and financial challenges in the field of special education that would affect this role. This mixed method study aimed to investigate the role of SENDCo from the perspective of teachers in the private schools in the UAE. Challenges affecting this role has been explored. Teachers and SENDCos from three private school participated in this study. Qualitative and quantitative data were gathered from using a questionnaire and conducting interviews. According to the response of 85 participants, SENDCos duties include operating day-to-day SEND provisions, overseeing SEND register, working in liaison with teachers, parents and external agencies, contributing to in-service training, and developing their professional skills. However, these roles, as the findings of this study revealed, are influenced by several challenges related to managing the time of the SENCo, managing SEND provisions and SEND register, liaising with teachers, parents and external agencies, developing in-service training and finally issues related to the UAE context. To overcome these challenges, SENDCos have to be prepared and trained to change attitudes and remove obstacles to full and effective inclusion in mainstream schools.
special educational needs and disabilities coordinator (SENDCo), inclusion, United Arab Emirates (UAE), education sector