Special educational needs and disabilites (SEND)

Assistants playing with special needs children

The term SEND is used to describe children (or young people) with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

A child with a special educational need is one that has more difficulty with their learning than their peers and requires additional support.

This difficulty maybe mild and transient or more severe and long lasting as a result of a disability. 

A disability is an impairment that has a substantial and long term affect on a child. 

How can settings ensure that children with SEND are supported?

Funded early years settings should follow the government's SEND Code of Practice and ensure all requirements outlined in the Code are incorporated into all aspects of their provision.

This ensures children’s needs are identified early, appropriate support is given and children are referred onto external agencies if their learning and development continue to be a concern.

Non-maintained settings are expected to identify a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) to support children with SEN. 

If a child is also disabled then the child is offered support and protection under the Equality Act 2010. Additional duties are set out within the Act for those settings in receipt of public funding.


Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) inspection framework for local areas

Ofsted's framework for the inspection of local areas’ effectiveness for identifying and meeting the needs of children and young people (aged 0-25) with SEND (2016), follows on from statutory duties contained within the Children and Families Act (2014) and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice (2014).

Ofsted and Care Quality Commission inspections hold local areas to account but also offer appropriate support to improve outcomes. Although the local area inspections do not focus directly on registered early years providers, these settings may be visited during inspection to contribute towards evidence gathered by inspectors to identify how well local providers and agencies are working together and contributing towards positive outcomes for children and young children with SEND. To ensure that early years providers contribute favourably to this inspection process, settings should ensure that their practices meet their own institutional inspection and legislative requirements for identify and meeting children’s SEND.

Get more information on the framework

SEND funding

The Department for Education (DfE) has outlined changes to the funding provision of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). These include the introduction of a disability element to the base rate, a SEND Inclusion Fund and a Disability Access Fund.

Funding pots 

Unlike schools, early years providers don’t have a notional SEND budget. They must meet the needs of most children using their core budget. However, if a child’s needs cannot be met from that budget, and they don’t have an Educational Health and Care plan, providers can request a top-up from their local authority (LA).

Eligibility criteria for this top-up was previously determined by a set of local SEND descriptors, with school forums overseeing the process and determining the outcome of applications.

Previously, some LAs have used their high needs funding block to provide this support. This block is one of the three main education funding sources.

As of April 2017, this process changed. All LAs will be required to provide an early years SEN inclusion fund. This fund will be created by pooling an amount of funding from either one or both of their early years and high needs funding blocks. LAs will be able to use part of the fund to support specialist services. Some of these services will be delivered to providers free at the point of use.

Alternatively, some LAs may wish to offer specialist services, using a buy-back model to charge providers. This will mean that some providers may need to buy their own training for inclusion and safeguarding.

Schools forums    

There is very little detail in the reforms about the role of the schools forums but it’s thought that most LAs will continue to manage the process.

Children attending provision with lower levels or emerging SEND will be eligible for the fund.

Each application will be judged on a case-by-case basis. However, it’s likely that each LA may take a slightly different approach.

We know from our own, as well as the government’s, research that early years top-up funding has often been hard to secure.

Hopefully, this new process will improve access to top-up funding for providers. However, schools forums are only required to give special consideration to applications so providers are advised to ensure that their application can stand up to robust scrutiny.

Providers will need to demonstrate in their applications that the child has received suitable support, and that their needs are significantly outside and beyond what can be provided for by using resources currently available to the setting.

Both tracking and interventions of the child’s progress should be clearly recorded on supporting documentation.

Other evidence settings may need to provide could include:

  • external evidence to support the child’s identified need and any subsequent assessment and planning;
  • data collected to show the child’s progress to date – this may include observations, assessments and associated SEN action plans detailing interventions and adjustments;
  • evidence to show that interventions and adjustments have been applied over time, but the child has failed to make suitable progress.

If an application is turned down, despite having a solid case for funding, and refused at appeal, providers can advise parents to apply to the LA for a statutory assessment for their child.

Behaviour issues and SEND

Positive behaviour in young children is located within the context of their development of personal, social and emotional skills.  

Settling into a new environment such as an early years setting is an emotional transition for young children especially as they learn to develop and master the complex skills needed to communicate, negotiate, and socialise with their peers. Skills such as turn taking and sharing often instigate minor conflicts between children as they struggle to deal with powerful emotions and feelings.

In early years settings a dedicated key person is responsible for individual children’s needs who will know a child’s level of development, their personal characteristics and specific family circumstances. This knowledge ensures children’s individual needs are understood and supported and issues with behaviour are quickly picked up on. During minor disputes, a child’s key person can help them reflect and regulate their actions and in most instances young children start to learn how to resolve minor disputes themselves. However, some incidents are influenced by other factors such as the child feeling ill, being tired or having a new baby in the family. Because of the key person’s relationship with the child and the family these issues can be discussed and with relevant support the behaviour is usually short lived.

Sometimes a child continues to exhibit challenging behaviour despite intervention from their key person and family. In these instances more investigation is needed to rule out more serious issues such as an underlying special educational need/disability or a safeguarding issue. These situations are usually managed by the setting’s SENCO or manager who can apply relevant interventions to seek further help to stop the behaviour escalating and causing further harm.

If you are an early years setting and need advice on training on SEND/behaviour please contact our Training Centre on 01732 363070.

If you are a local authority and require advice and bespoke SEND/behaviour training for your early years settings please ring Nicky Gibson on 020 7697 2557.

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