The SEND toolbox: getting your Early Years SEND provision right

The best way to support and include your SEND children
April 30, 2018
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In a rush? Here’s the quick run-down.

  • Early Years providers have a duty in relation to children with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Providers are required to have arrangements in place to identify and support children with SEN or disabilities and to promote equality of opportunity for children in their care.
  • Providers must not discriminate against, harass or victimise disabled children, and they must make reasonable adjustments to prevent them from being put at a substantial disadvantage.

The Policy behind your SEND provision

The Children and Families Act 2014, The Equalities Act 2010, and the SEND Code of Practice 2014, were put in place to make sure that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) get greater support, choice, and opportunities.

The SEND Code of Practice runs through the responsibilities that English nurseries and Early Years settings have in order to support children with SEND, alongside the Early Years Foundation Stage framework.

You should focus on putting inclusive, good practice at the very heart of your nursery, as part of a whole-setting approach.

As a nursery or early years provider, you are responsible for:

  • Promoting equal opportunities for children with SEND.
  • Focusing on inclusive practice.
  • Ensuring there are no barriers for these children to learn.
  • Making adjustments to prevent disadvantage and inaccessibility.

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

‘SEND’ is an incredibly broad spectrum. Children may have physical disabilities, hearing difficulties, learning disabilities, visual disabilities, social and/or emotional difficulties, for example.

However, special educational needs are generally grouped into 4 broad areas:

  • Communication and interaction
  • Cognition and learning
  • Social, emotional and mental health
  • Sensory and/or physical needs

Of course, how you meet the needs of children with SEN will depend on the complexity and specifics of that individual’s needs. However, these practices can be broken down into:

  • Systematic – the type of support that your nursery routinely practices, tailored towards children with SEN.
  • Specialised – the type of support that is specifically designed to cater for children with higher needs. This could include developing individual learning plans and strategies.

Your SEND provision toolbox – what do you need?

Now that we know the background, it’s time to dig into the toolbox and find out the things you need in order to provide for children with SEN in the best way possible.

1. Special educational needs and disabilities co-Ordinator (SENDCO)/ Area SENDCO

Your SENDCO has a legal duty to follow the SEND code of practice but is important that this person is not expected to physically do all the hands-on work with every SEND child in your setting.

SENDCO’s should be focusing on:

  • Overseeing the day-to-day implementation of your nursery’s SEN provision and policy.
  • Making sure that all members of staff are clear on what their responsibilities are.
  • Supporting teachers in the effective implementation of provision – these teachers may need advice from the SENDCO.
  • Monitoring the parent-nursery relationship.
  • Liaising with services beyond your nursery to give your SEND children the best service possible.
  • Regularly reviewing the nursery environment – discussing improvements, modifications and amendments to the layout.
  • Ensuring the setting delivers a broad and balanced curriculum suitable for all children.
  • Keeping records of assessment, planning and provision for the review of children with SEND. More on this later.

The SENDCO role is of great importance to your setting and, as with any of your staff members, hiring the right person for the role is critical. So, what to look for when hiring a SENDCO?

The person should have:

  • A desire to promote equal opportunities for all children and understand that every child, with or without SEN, has the potential to develop and progress.
  • Patience, persistence and tenacity.
  • Organisational skills, particularly time management.
  • Great communication skills.
  • Thorough knowledge of child development.

The person should know:

  • How to meet the needs of children with different types of SEND (usually a combination of experience with theory and practice).
  • The importance of observations for future assessment and planning.

The person should be:

  • Very familiar with the SEND Code of Practice.
  • Aware of services beyond the nursery that may need to be involved.

Your setting will likely have an Area SENDCO too from the Local Authority. They’ll work alongside your setting's SENDCO to support your SEND children.

2. Get others involved

The setting's SENDCO and the child with SEND's key worker should work in partnership with the parents or carers. It's key that all parties understand the importance of building strong communication strategies in the best interests of the child. Parents or carers not only play an integral role in identifying their child’s SEND, but it’s also vital that they are kept totally up-to-date on their child’s journey at your nursery.

Their views should inform the action taken by you – they need to have trust in you as a setting to know what is best for their child. Therefore achieving a trustworthy, respected relationship is going to benefit everybody involved!

3. Assess > Plan > Do> Review

This cycle of action (promoted by The SEND Code of Practice 0-25) is a great way to stay on top of things with your SEND provision.

Assess – You can base this on:

  • Views of the child and their parents/carers.
  • Assessments and observations made by practitioners (focus on those made by the key worker and SENDCO).
  • Current attainment and previous progress made.
  • What changes need to be made to the provision, resources, or other aspects of the setting, to ensure the child has full access to the EYFS framework.

Plan – This step must be child-centred:

  • Set outcomes, with guidance for parents, educators, and others involved.
  • Any necessary adjustments, whether that be outside services or a modification to the education delivered.
  • A review scheduled.

Do – All practitioners should be made aware of the plan for effective implementation.

Review – You should review the provision in your nursery by the date decided in the planning stage. This should involve the child’s parents/carers.

Then the cycle starts again. This is how you make sure that improvements are being made each time.

4. Liaise with services outside the setting

As practitioners, you and the family concerned can access a large and ever-expanding network of support. Outside services used could include:

  • Speech and language therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Educational psychology
  • Portage work
  • Health services

Of course, it is expected that children with more severe or complex conditions will require higher levels of contact with a greater range of SEND support services.

5. Early responsiveness/intervention

The Council for Disabled Children makes the point that early intervention produces immediate and long-term benefits for children with disabilities, their families and society.

Some ideas for ways to gather information for early intervention include:

  • Information from parents
  • The voice of the child
  • Observations within the setting from the child's key person or those working closely with the child.
  • Your 2/3 year checks
    As you’ll be very familiar with, The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) requires that parents/carers are given a short written summary of their child’s development when the child is aged between 24-36 months. This must be in relation to the three prime areas:
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Physical Development
  • Communication and Language

For children with SEND in particular this check should aim to:

  • Celebrate the child's progress and achievements
  • Enable the SENDCO and your practitioners to understand the children’s needs, with the idea that this will inform the planning of your SEND provision and remove barriers to learning.
  • Enable parents to understand how their child’s special educational needs or disability is being supported within the setting, as well as how they can enhance development at home.

Overall, preparation, open-mindedness and high-quality staff are the main tool you need to be well on your way to having an accessible, inclusive, stimulating and supportive environment for all children.‍

6. Ideas to improve your SEN provision

To finish off, here are some ideas on how you can optimise the service you offer to your SEND children and their families.

  1. Adopt a celebratory mindset
  2. The lexicon around SEND can often be one of deficit. Instead, focus on achievements, play, and what the child can do.
  3. Share in training
  4. If your setting is receiving training or CPD, especially if it's directly related to SEND, invite the parents along too. Make the first move in terms of sharing learning guidance and resources about their child's special educational need or disability.
  5. Consider transitions
  6. Not just those to school or another setting. How many do you have during the day? Could this be reduced if it's creating unnecessary stress or friction?
  7. Staff team building
  8. ‍The relationship between staff can’t be overlooked when it comes to children with SEND. Respectful and strong relationships are very valuable. Perhaps your staff could get involved in a team-building exercise once a month. Exercises could work on enhancing staff’s motivation, their team spirit, their communication or just having a bit of fun.

The big ideas

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Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

Learn more about Famly

Find out below how Famly helped Tenderlinks in recording child development, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.