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Grandma's garden, drawn by Aurora, age 7
Drawn by Aurora, age 7
When children are aged between 0-5 years, they are said to be in their “early years”. The early years are an important time for all children because experiences early-on in life can have long-term effects on development. They can be especially crucial years for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).


Does my child have SEND?

During your child’s early years, you may not know whether they have SEND or not. Many parents have concerns about their child’s development. While most of the time it is just a normal part of growing up, you should highlight any worries you have with a health professional.

Health Visitors carry out development reviews when your child reaches 9 months and 2 years of age. These are designed to pick up on any early signs of disability or ill-health. It is important to attend these reviews even if you consider your child to be developing normally. You can read more from our health visitors about why these checks are so crucial by clicking here. 

Your local children’s centre can also offer advice and support if you have concerns about your child’s development. Click here for more information on the role of children’s centres.

If you would like to know more about what SEND is and the different types of needs children can have, visit our SEND Needs Explained page


How do I get support for my child with SEND?

When a health professional identifies that a child (up to the age of 5 years) may have SEND, they must let the local authority know. This is called a Health Early Notification. The purpose of this is to ensure that the local authority knows about children with SEND who live in their area, so they can help the family access any appropriate support and services that may be helpful to them. For more information about this, please click here

Portage Home Learning is a home-visiting service available to children (aged 0-3 years) with a recognised need or disability. The service helps promote a child’s development through a whole-family approach, and by building on the child’s existing skills and abilities. You can find out more by clicking here

A picture of my family, drawn by Ali, age 5
Drawn by Ali, age 5

How do I choose childcare for my child with SEND?

Good quality childcare is beneficial for all children. It plays an important role in development, allowing children to gain independence, mix with other children and learn new things.

There are several types of childcare provider and different families may find that different options work best for them. Most childcare providers can be categorised into one of the following:

For a more in-depth look at the different types of childcare please click here.

All parents have lots to consider when choosing a childcare provider that is right for them and their child. This may be particularly daunting when your child has SEND. We have produced a guide of useful things to think about when making your decision. It is recommended that you speak to and/or visit the childcare provider to get a sense of the provision they can offer for your child.


What support will my child with SEND get from childcare providers?

Early years’ providers are legally required to support children with SEND. This is specified in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework which sets standards in a child’s care up to compulsory school age.

The EYFS requires that all children have the same opportunities in childcare - regardless of needs or disability. Providers must review each child’s learning and development and have procedures for identifying and supporting SEND. Summaries of these reviews must then be shared with the child’s parents/carers.


Special Educational Need and/or Disability Coordinator (SENDCO)

All nurseries and pre-schools must appoint a Special Educational Need and/or Disability Coordinator (SENDCO). This is someone who holds responsibility for supporting children with SEND. The SENDCO will advise colleagues about the best strategies to promote positive outcomes and will work to actively involve parents in this decision-making.

Childminders are also strongly encouraged to identify someone who can act as a SENDCO – this may be one SENDCO shared by several childminders.


Funding to support early years providers

Early years childcare providers can request additional funding to help support children with SEND in their care. These funding streams include:

  • Disability Access Fund - available for 3- and 4- year olds who receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and free universal or extended early education
  • Enhanced SEN Inclusion Fund (SENIF) - available for 3- and 4- year olds with a low level or emerging SEN who access free universal or extended early education OR 2-year olds with significant delays


Regulation of early years providers

Ofsted is the regulator or early years childcare and carries out regular inspections to ensure providers meet the requirements for supporting children with SEND.    

For more details about what the local authority expects from childcare providers please click here.


Do I have to pay for childcare?

All parents/carers with a child aged 3-4 years are entitled to receive 15 hours of free early education in a nursery or pre-school setting which can be accessed for 38 weeks of the year. If you are working, you may also be eligible for an additional 15 hours of free childcare. For more information about this offer, please click here.

If you have a child aged 2 years, you may be able to claim up to 15 hours of free childcare if you are on low income, your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), or receives Disability Living Allowance. For more information on whether you might be eligible, please click here.  


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