Referral and triage to the Early Years Service for practictioners

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Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework

For early years professionals requiring general support regarding:

  • quality of education
  • implementation of the EYFS Statutory Framework

please contact your local early years team

Special educational needs provision

Early years professionals requiring advice on:

  • special educational needs in an early years setting
  • a individual child or groups of children in a setting (where an individual referral is not required)

should email

This is particularly relevant where it is likely that a provider would benefit from:
  • external
  • targeted support and advice
to meet the needs of a group of children with SEND. This is likely to be due to:
  • identifying the need to improve
  • providing support to meet a range of needs for children with SEND
  • early advice and guidance is required where a child, or children, is likely to be within the universal or targeted areas of the graduated response for SEN.  This applies where a referral for an individual child through the Early Help Hub is not being made
  • A request for support for the SENCO. This is to help fulfil their statutory duties to coordinate and provide an effective response for children at their setting.

This could be achieved through a SEND support visit and a Best Start in Life, Team around the Setting Meeting.

Best Start in Life, Team around the Setting Meetings

To consider holistic needs of an early years setting and plan appropriate support. The aim of this meeting is to:

  • ensure the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable children are met
  • identify specific contextual information about the setting and the needs of the children, cohort groups where additional support is required
  • agree a clear plan that identified external support to the school/setting
  • provide advice and guidance where relevant to the school/setting

Referring individual children

Many children receive appropriate support from their setting and other services without the need to be referred A referral could be considered, where support maybe required to ensure bespoke interventions match the needs of the child
To refer an individual child, professionals should:
  1. First implement the graduated response as discussed in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. Please refer to the Early Years Graduated Response Toolkit for guidance
  2. Consider what support is required that is different and additional to what the setting SENDCo is able to provide
  3. Refer via the Early Help Hub. Ensure that:
    - relevant permission has been obtained from the child’s family
    - specific detail about the child’s levels of development have been included
    be specific about the support you are requesting
    - include the voice of the child

Referrals will be triaged and the referrer notified about any support that can be offered by the Early Years Service. 

Health visitors and portage workers should follow the agreed referral pathway for their service.

The triage process

The triage process reviews the referral in a timely way so that the level of support either:

  • universal
  • targeted
  • specialist

is arranged and will be appropriate to the level of individual need outlined in the request for help.

Once a referral has been made, the Early Years Service will assess requests for help at triage meeting.

Meetings are normally held once each week during term time.

The referred will receive notification of the response within five working days of a referral being received.

The triage meeting is organised by the senior managers in the Early Years Service with responsibility for SEND.

These are the:

  • Head of Early Years and Foundation Stage
  • Early Years Consultant for Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED)
  • Service Manager, Targeted Support
  • Service Manager, Specialist Support

To ensure additional expert advice is available in this process, professionals from other services may be invited to contribute to the process.  For example:

  • Disabled Children’s Early Help Team Manager
  • Speech and Language Therapist
  • Paediatrician
  • Senior Educational Psychologist (Early Years)

Attendees review the information supplied by the referrer.

The members of the triage meeting consider these points to make their decision:

  • The developmental needs of the child/children.
  • The experience of staff within the provision they attend
  • The level of need evidenced in the referral and how this links to the Graduated Response for Early Years
  • The evidence base used in the referral and whether this provides sufficient information
  • The skills and capacity of the Early Years Service to meet the setting’s needs

  1. The evidence and referral were clear and the Early Years Service are able to allocate a team member to work with the child, or relevant practitioner, from a setting. Depending on the level of need this could be support at a universal, targeted or specialist level
  2. The evidence and referral were clear and the Early Years Service will offer support to the setting to support them with improving specific areas of their provision this could be support at a universal or targeted level
  3. There was a lack of clarity in the referral.  Although the evidence provided suggests some need, a team member could not be allocated to provide support at this stage. The referrer is asked to clarify one or more elements of the referral
  4. There was sufficient evidence in the referral. However the referral is not appropriate for the Early Years Service. The referrer will be notified and advice given about other possible steps to take

Referrers are usually notified of the outcome within five working days of the panel meeting.

If, for any reason, a referrer is concerned at the outcome of the triage process, further consideration can be requested.  Please send this to

This will be reviewed by the Head of Early Years and Foundation Stage.

Should an outcome not be accepted, the matter can be escalated for further consideration in consultation with the Head of SEND and the Service Director Children’s Health and Wellbeing.

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