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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Getting help for special educational needs in under fives

If your child is having difficulties with learning, your early education provider - for example a nursery or playgroup - will be able to offer extra support. The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice gives guidance on different levels of support.

Getting help - first steps

If you have concerns about your child's learning, arrange a meeting with their teacher or the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO). You'll be able to do this through your child's nursery or other early years setting.

All publicly funded preschools and nurseries must take into account the 'Special Educational Needs Code of Practice'. This gives practical guidance on how to identify and assess children with SEN.

You can read a summary of the code in the leaflet 'SEN: a guide for parents and carers'.

If your child is not attending an early years setting

If your child is not attending a nursery, playgroup or other early years setting, you can talk to your local council. Their early years and childcare team can help you find appropriate early years and childcare provision. Their SEN team can give you more advice about special educational needs. Alternatively you could contact a Sure Start Children's Centre near you for help.

Early Years Action

If your child needs special help with their learning, preschools or nurseries may provide this through a way of helping children called 'Early Years Action'. Your child's teachers or SENCO will discuss your child's needs with you, assess their needs and decide what help to give. You should be asked about the help your child is given and its results.

Help under Early Years Action could mean a different way of teaching certain things, or some help from an extra adult. This help, and the short-term targets for your child's learning, may be written down in a document called an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Alternatively your child's progress may be recorded in the same way as it is for all other children.

Individual Education Plan (IEP)

Your child's IEP is used as a planning and review 'tool' for their teachers and for you. IEPs should set out:

  • what special help is being given
  • who will provide the help and how often
  • what help you can give your child at home

Early Years Action Plus

If your child does not make enough progress in Early Years Action, their teacher or SENCO should talk to you about getting extra help from. This could be from, for example, a specialist teacher or a speech therapist. This kind of help is called 'Early Years Action Plus'.

External specialists may start by making an assessment of what is needed. Specialists advise on the IEP and sometimes teach or help your child directly.

If your child needs a large amount of help or extra resources, your local authority may agree to provide this through Early Years Action Plus. They might also decide to make a statutory assessment.

A statutory assessment (often known simply as an 'assessment') brings in a number of specialists to decide what extra help your child needs.

What is a special educational needs statutory assessment?

The assessment finds out exactly what your child's needs are, and what special help they need. It is only necessary if your child's early years setting or school cannot provide all the help they need. It is carried out by your local council and based on specialist advice.

You can ask for an assessment for your child and so can your child's nursery or school. If the nursery wants to ask the local authority to carry out an assessment, they should always talk to you first.

What is a SEN statement?

A statement of special educational needs (SEN) sets out your child's needs and the help they should receive. It is reviewed annually to ensure that any extra support given continues to meet your child's needs.

Assessments and statements if your child is under two

If your child is under two, you or professionals working with your child can write formally to ask for a statutory assessment. The education department of your local authority will consider your request. They must agree to make an assessment if your child needs one. However, for children under two, the local authority will decide how to carry out the assessment. This is because the legal rules about how assessments should be carried out only apply to children of two and over.

Once the assessment has been completed, the local authority decides whether to issue a statement of special educational needs (SEN). An SEN statement for a child under two should describe:

  • your child's needs
  • the views of parents and professionals
  • an account of the help that will be provided
  • information about how this help will be monitored and reviewed

It's rare for children under two to be issued with a statement. If you feel that the help being offered is not adequate, then asking for a statutory assessment may be a good way to get help.

Assessments and statements if your child is over two

When a child reaches the age of two, the legal rules for assessing them and making a statement apply. There are set time limits and rules for the local authority to follow.

Your child's nursery or preschool may ask the local authority for your child to be assessed. You can also ask for your child to be assessed and you can appeal if the local authority refuses.

The procedures for assessments and statements are the same as those for children of school age.

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