SEND in early years

Getting support for your child with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) as early as possible is important to see the best outcomes for your child. Early years providers should regularly review and evaluate the quality and breadth of the support they offer or can access for children with SEN (Special Educational Needs) or disabilities.

All children are entitled to an education that enables them to:

  • Achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes
  • Become confident young children with a growing ability to communicate their own views and ready to make the transition into compulsory education

Early years providers have a responsibility to:

  • Have arrangements in place to support children with special educational needs and disabilities. This should include a clear approach to identifying and supporting special educational needs.
  • Be alert to emerging difficulties and respond early.
  • Listen and understand when parents express concerns about their child’s development. They should also listen to and address any concerns raised by children themselves.
  • Provide information for parents on how the setting supports children with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Take steps to ensure that children with medical conditions get the support required to meet their needs
  • Promote equal opportunities for children in their care.

Funding for early years support

  • The local authority should ensure that funding for early education reflects the need to provide suitable support for children with special educational needs.
  • The local authority is responsible for ensuring that any setting providing funded early education places meet the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Early years providers will evaluate how they can get the most from their resources to support children with special educational needs and disabilities

Identifying Special educational needs in the early years

How are special educational needs and disabilities identified between birth and 2?

At Birth
Children with more complex needs may be identified at birth.

Health assessments
The hearing screening test is used to check the hearing of all new-born babies. This enables very early identification of many medical and physical difficulties.

Parents early observations of their child are very important.

Early years progress checks and plans

Early years providers should have arrangements in place that include a clear approach to assessing a child’s special educational needs.

It is also important to note that early years practitioners should regularly monitor and review progress and development of all children in their care.

Progress check

Between the ages of 2 and 3, early years practitioners must review progress and provide parents with a short-written summary of their child’s development. This should focus on the child’s:

  • Communication and language.
  • Physical, personal, social and emotional development.
  • Strengths and areas where progress is slower than expected.

Where there are significant concerns (or an identified SEN or disability) practitioners should develop a plan to support the child. This plan must describe where:

  • Good progress is being made
  • Additional support might be needed
  • There is concern that the child might have a developmental delay (which may indicate SEN or disability)
  • Activities and strategies will be used to address issues or concerns

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) profile

This is designed to provide parents, practitioners and key stage 1 teachers with an assessment of the child’s knowledge, understanding and abilities at the end of the early year’s foundation stage.

  • It is usually completed for children in the final term of the year in which they turn five.
  • It is particularly helpful for children with special educational needs as it should inform plans for future learning and highlight any additional needs requiring support.

Support for special educational needs in the early years

Any support should:

  • Be matched to the child’s special educational needs or disability
  • Aim to address the child’s strengths and needs/ difficulties
  • Be family centred.
  • The SEND code of practice states:
  • It is particularly important in the early years that there is no delay in making any necessary special education provision. Delay at this stage can give rise to learning difficulty and subsequently to loss of self-esteem, frustration in learning and to behaviour difficulties.
  • Where a setting identifies a child as having SEN, they must work in partnership with parents to establish the support the child needs.
  • Where a setting makes special educational provision for a child with SEN, they should inform the parents.

Support could include

Specialist support from:

  • Health visitors
  • Educational psychologists
  • Speech and language therapists
  • Specialist teachers

A Graduated Approach

A graduated approach should be adopted by all early year’s settings with 4 stages of action – assess, plan, do, review.

This cycle of action should be revisited frequently to monitor progress. Parents should be engaged with the setting throughout and feel able to contribute their thoughts and opinions on their child’s support, assessment of support and planning. Actions and outcomes should be shared and discussed with parents at agreed times.


The SEND Code of Practice says

  • Where a child is identified as having SEN, early education settings, schools and post 16 institutions should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective special educational provision in place. When your child is identified has having SEN, the school should use a graduated approach based on four steps. These are:

Who carries out an assessment?

  • The early years practitioner
  • Setting SENCO
  • Child’s parents

This initial assessment should be reviewed regularly to ensure that support is matched to need.
If a specialist assessment is necessary, this could draw on advice from:

  • Specialist teachers
  • Health, social services or other agencies


Parents should be formally notified of the decision to provide SEN support.

The practitioner, SENCO and parents should agree on the child’s outcomes. The support selected should be designed to meet these outcomes. They should also consider the expected effect of the support on progress and development and outline a date for review.

Parents should be involved in planning support, and where appropriate, in reinforcing the provision or contributing to progress at home

The early years practitioner is responsible for working with the child on a daily basis. With support from the SENCO, they will oversee the support. Together, they should assess the child’s response to the support and evaluate its effectiveness.

The effectiveness of support should be reviewed in line with an agreed date.
The impact and quality of support should be evaluated by:

  • The practitioner
  • The SENCO
  • The child’s parents (and considering the child’s views)

Changes to the child’s outcomes and support should be determined by their progress and development
For the review, parents should have information about the support provided and be involved in planning the next steps.

For further Information On Early Years please see link here Send Code of Practice Early Years

Disclaimer: SIASS has made all reasonable efforts to ensure that the information contained in this leaflet is accurate and up to date at the time of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and SIASS cannot accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of any reliance placed upon it.
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