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Early years - Local Offer

All children are entitled to early education that enables them to set the foundation for a lifelong learning, behaviour, and health.

Early education contributes to achieving the best possible educational experiences with positive outcomes. It also enables a child to become a confident young person with a growing ability to communicate their own views, ready to make the transition into compulsory education.

Special educational needs (SEN) and disability (SEND) and early years settings

Always speak to your childcare provider first if you are worried about your child's learning.

All early years providers are required to have arrangements in place to identify and support children with SEND and to promote equality of opportunity for children in their care.

What to expect from early years providers

Early years providers must:

  • use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEND gets the support they need - this means doing everything they can to meet the child or young person's special educational needs
  • ensure that children with special educational needs or disabilities engage in the activities of the setting/school, alongside children who do not have special educational needs or disabilities

Local Authority Maintained Nursery Schools will have a designated teacher who is responsible for coordinating SEND provision and they will inform parents when they are making special educational provision for a child.

Local Authority Maintained Nursery Schools must also prepare a report on:

  • the implementation of their SEND policy
  • their arrangements for the admission of disabled children
  • the steps being taken to prevent disabled children from being treated less favourably than others
  • the facilities provided to enable access to the school for disabled children
  • their accessibility plan showing how they plan to improve access over time

Support from early years staff

All education staff, including early years settings, expect to support children with a variety of needs. Your child's nursery, pre-school or childminder should provide a written summary of your child’s progress when they are between 2 and 3 years old.

This will give details about your child’s development, their strengths, talents and likes, as well as any additional support that they might need.

Specialist support in the early years can take several forms, including:

  • specialist support from health visitors, educational psychologists, speech and language therapists or specialist teachers, such as a teacher of the deaf or vision impaired - these specialists may visit families at home to provide practical support, answering questions and clarifying needs
  • early learning programmes suitable for parents to use to promote play, communication, and language development
  • home-based programmes, such as Portage, through the SEND Support Service (SSS) which offer a carefully structured system to help parents support their child’s early learning and development

Portage aims to:

  • work with families to help them develop a quality of life and experience for themselves and their young children
  • play a part in minimising the disabling barriers that confront young children and their families
  • support the national and local development of inclusive services for children

Responding to your child's needs

Where a child has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than their peers, or a disability that prevents or hinders a child from making use of the facilities in the setting and requires special educational provision, the setting should make reasonable adjustments to provide this. 

They can apply for financial support to the Local Authority through the Disability Access Fund to help cover costs.

In all cases, early identification and intervention can significantly reduce the need for more interventions at a later stage.

Children’s SEND are generally thought of in the following 4 broad areas of need and support:

  • communication and interaction
  • cognition and learning
  • social, emotional, and mental health
  • sensory and/or physical needs

Read the SEND Code of Practice on the Gov.UK website.

It is particularly important in the early years that there is no delay in making any necessary special educational 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.

Early action to address identified needs is critical to the future progress and improved outcomes that are essential in helping the child to prepare for adult life.

SEND support in the early years

Identifying a child as needing SEND support after carrying out clear analysis of the child's needs.

Parents must be notified when their child is to receive SEND support although parents should have already been involved in the assessment stage.

The setting, in consultation with parents and the child should agree the outcomes they are seeking, the interventions and support to be put in place, the expected impact on progress, development or behaviour and a clear date for review.

Plans should consider the views of the child. Adjustments, interventions and support put in place should be expected to impact the progress, development, or behaviour along with a clear date for review.

The support and intervention provided should be selected to meet the outcomes identified for the child, based on reliable evidence of effectiveness, and provided by practitioners with relevant skills and knowledge.

Any related staff development needs should be identified and addressed.

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

The early years practitioner remains responsible for working with the child on a daily basis. With the support from the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) they should oversee the implementation of the interventions of programmes as agreed as part of the SEND Support.

The SENCO should support the practitioner in assessing the child’s response to the action taken, in problem solving and advising on the effective implementation of support.

The effectiveness of the support and its impact on the child’s progress should be reviewed in line with the agreed date. The impact and quality of the support should be evaluated by the practitioner and the SENCO working with the child’s parents and considering the child’s views.

They should agree any changes to the outcomes and support for the child considering the child’s progress and development. Parents should have clear information about the impact of the support provided and be involved in planning next steps.

SEND support should include planning and preparing for transition before a child moves into another setting or school. This can also include a review of the SEND support being provided or the Educational Health Care plan (EHC).

To support the transition, information should be shared by the current setting with the receiving setting or school. The current setting should agree with parents the information to be shared as part of this planning process.

Where a child has an EHC plan in an early years setting, this must be reviewed at least annually, preferably every 6 months and in anticipation of any transition to statutory schooling.

Children with medical conditions

The early years setting will work with parents and health professionals to implement an effective health plan for children with medical conditions that affect their learning or access to education.

A medical condition (such as diabetes) is not considered to be a special educational need.

Read about how children with medical needs can be supported.

Disability Access Fund (DAF)

The Disability Access Fund is designed to support children aged 0-5 years with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

The DAF helps early education and childcare providers to make reasonable adjustments to their settings (be that for the child in question or for the benefit of all children who attend the setting).

Providers who have funded entitlement children who are eligible for the DAF will be entitled to receive a single, one-off payment.

Children do not have to take up the full 570 hours of funded childcare.

Childcare providers are responsible for identifying children who are eligible for the DAF.

Find out more about the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children.

Parents or carers of children qualifying for Disability Living Allowance are required to provide documented evidence of this allowance.

To make a claim for DAF funding, childcare providers need to email [email protected] with evidence provided by the parents and carers.

What happens if you're unhappy with the support your child is receiving

If you do not believe that the educational establishment is working effectively to support your child's progress, you should, in the first instance, speak with the setting to discuss your concerns.

You can contact the SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SEND IASS) for impartial advice and support.

If this does not resolve your concerns, you can follow the setting's complaints policy.

What happens if the early years setting cannot support your child's complex needs

Where assessment indicates that support from specialist services is required, it is important that children receive it as quickly as possible.

If a child or young person has significant or complex needs, a parent, an education provider can request support from West Northants Specialist SEND Support Service or can make a request for a statutory assessment of educational needs.

Funded places for 2-year-olds 

2-year-olds can get free childcare if they qualify and meet the funding criteria.

They will automatically qualify for a space if they are one of the following:

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order

Read more about help paying for childcare - free education and childcare for 2 years olds.

Funded places for 3- and 4-year-olds

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 free hours per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but you may be able to choose to take fewer hours over more weeks.

Extended / 30 hour childcare for 3- and 4-year-olds

Some parents and carers may be entitled to an additional 570 free hours per year. It’s usually taken as 30 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but you may be able to choose to take fewer hours over more weeks.

Read more about 30 hours free childcare.

Local Childcare providers

Details of local childcare providers and other services of benefit to parents, prospective parents, children and young people can be found on West Northants Council Family Information Service (FIS).

Search the Local Offer directory.

Last updated 27 December 2023