What early years providers must do to support 0-5 year olds with special educational needs or disabilities.

If your child has special educational needs or is disabled, their early years education provider must:

  • have a SEND policy, which gives a clear approach of how they'll identify and respond to the needs of children with SEND and how they'll offer the support
  • have detailed information for parents about how the setting supports children with SEND
  • designate a member of staff to be responsible for coordinating SEND provision, called the SENCO
  • make sure your child can join in with activities alongside other children
  • tell you when they're making special educational provision for your child
  • promote equal opportunities for disabled children

Maintained nursery schools must also have a SEND Information report, which is available on their website if they have one.

Special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs)

The SENCO has additional training and experience of children who have additional needs or disabilities. They're responsible for:

  • advising and supporting other staff in SEND matters
  • monitoring the progress of children with SEND
  • liaising with other professionals

Early years information and resources for SENCOs.

Progress checks

Providers should review your child's progress regularly and involve you. 

When your child is between two and three, your provider must review their progress. This progress check identifies your child's strengths and areas where their progress is slower than they'd expect. 

They'll provide you with a short written summary of your child's development in three areas:

  • personal, social and emotional development
  • communication and language
  • physical development

The summary must tell you where your child:

  • is making good progress
  • may need extra help
  • may have developmental delay, which may indicate SEN or a disability

If your child needs extra help

If your childcare provider identifies that your child has a possible need, they'll develop a plan, involving you and other professionals. 

The Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle

Providers use four actions to put SEN support in place. This is known as the graduated approach and the four actions are:

  • assess 
  • plan 
  • do
  • review 


The early years practitioner and SENCO assess your child's needs to find out what support they need.


The early years practitioner or SENCO will:

  • tell you what they can do to give your child the support they need 
  • involve you in planning towards an agreed set of outcomes


The early years practitioner puts the planned support in place for your child and monitors them.


The early years practitioner will review if the support is making a difference after the timeframe included in the plan.

Further assessment of needs

If the early years setting can't meet your child's needs through SEN support, they may need more specialist help. Your provider may suggest that you ask us to carry out a needs assessment for your child. This involves:

  • looking in detail at the extra help that's already been put in place
  • identifying what extra support your child may need

You should work with your child's early years setting before asking us for an EHC needs assessment to make sure they've put in place all possible support.