Early Years

Extract taken from the SEND Code of Practice 0 - 25 years January 2015
(5.1, 5.4 - 5.6, 5.10, 5.13 - 5.14)


Some children need support for SEN and disabilities at home or in informal settings before, or as well as, the support they receive from an early years provider.


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


  • achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes, and

  • become confident young children with a growing ability to communicate their own views and ready to make the transition into compulsory education.


Parents' early observations of their child are crucial. Children with more complex developmental and sensory needs may be identified at birth. Health assessments, such as the hearing screening test, which is used to check the hearing of all new-born babies, enable very early identification of a range of medical and physical difficulties. Health services, including paediatricians, the family's general practitioner, and health visitors, should work with the family, support them to understand their child's needs and help them to access early support. 


Providers must have arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities. These arrangements should include a clear approach to identifying and responding to SEN. The benefits of early identification are widely recognised - identifying need at the earliest point, and then making effective provision, improves long-term outcomes for children.


All those who work with young children should be alert to emerging difficulties and respond early. In particular, parents know their children best and it is important that all practitioners 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. 


Maintained nursery schools must:


  • use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need

  • ensure that children with SEN engage in the activities of school alongside children who do not have SEN

  • designate a teacher to be responsible for co-ordinating SEN provision (the SEN co-ordinator, or SENCO)

  • inform parents when they are making special educational provision for a child.


All early years providers have duties under the Equality Act 2010. In particular, they must not discriminate against, harass or victimise disabled children, and they must make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services for disabled children, to prevent them being put at substantial disadvantage. This duty is anticipatory - it requires thought to be given in advance to what disabled children and young people might require and what adjustments might need to be made to prevent that disadvantage.