SEND in the early years

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Early Years providers in Cornwall use the Graduated Response in Early Years Foundation Stage. This helps to meet the individual needs of children with (SEN).

Early years provision for children with SEND

The Early Years Foundation Stage

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. All schools and Ofsted-registered early years providers must follow the EYFS. This includes childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes. All providers must follow the SEND Code of Practice. They should use the Graduated Response in Early Years Foundation Stage document to help. 

Statutory Framework for EYFS

Early Years Support

Some 2 year olds can access 15 hours a week in a setting rated as good or outstanding by OFSTED. This is called Early Years Entitlement. It depends on the family’s financial circumstances or if a child has a disability. 

All 3 and 4 year olds have an Early Years Entitlement of 15 hours a week. This starts from the term after their 3rd birthday. Their families can access a range of Early Years settings including:

  • maintained nurseries
  • private day nurseries
  • private and voluntary pre-schools
  • childminders

Some families with 3 and 4 year old children can get up to 30 hours free childcare. 

Any registered early years setting is required by law:

  • to deliver the EYFS
  • to accept children with SEN in line with EYFS and SEND Code of Practice
  • is Ofsted assured
  • is able to access support from Local Authority services

Each setting is different. They may offer different opening hours or different term times. Their ethos will influence how they deliver the EYFS. Parents can visit settings so they can make an informed decision about what is right for their child. 

Childcare and funding

Supporting Early Years Children with SEN in Cornwall 

Early Years Service (EYS)

The EYS is a multi-disciplinary team. It delivers SEN services to Early Years providers as part of a continuum of Local Authority services. We work with children aged 0 to 5 with SEND. We also work with other families to access their early years education entitlement.

The service includes the following staff:

  • Early Years Consultants and Teachers
  • Senior Locality Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinators (SENDCos)
  • Specialist Early Years Autism and social communication workers
  • Specialist Early Years Inclusion Workers
  • Specialist Teachers, Child Development

The Portage Service

The Portage Service visit children in their homes. This is for children aged from 6 months up to the point at which they transition to an Early Years Setting. Portage workers are Early Years practitioners. We have a good knowledge of child development, and have special needs experience. We are part of Cornwall Council’s Disabled Children and Therapy Service. We provide support and guidance to enable parents to achieve the best outcomes for their child.

Early Support

This is an approach for children aged 0-19 years with a disability or long term additional need. It aims to:

  • Include child and family priorities as central to planning next steps.
  • Support the family with advice
  • Define roles and responsibilities of the professionals involved.
  • Limit duplication of services

The multi-agency Team Around the Child (TAC) works together to meet the child and family’s needs. The family is supported by their chosen Lead Professional.

Find out more at the Council for Disabled Children website

Some children with more complex needs need more specialist support as part of their Early Years entitlement. To access this, you would have a discussion with the Early Years Service. Your child may access support from:

  • Specialist Child Development Teachers and
  • Nursery Nurses

from the Early Years Service.

The specialist part of our team is based in the community and offer support to the SENDCo’s and key workers in the child’s setting. The Early Years Service are also able to offer multi-agency support and training through Family Hubs at Hayle, Truro, St Columb Major and Looe.

Area Resource Base

Some children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) go to Area Resource Bases (ARB). These small bases are hosted by twenty primary and secondary schools across Cornwall. ARBs support pupils with more complex needs.

Pupils in ARBs receive more tailored, specialist provision than those in a mainstream school. This can include small group work and access to specialist resources and services. In an ARB, pupils can still access parts of the mainstream school and have specialist support. In Cornwall, we have ARBs across the county. This means it is more likely that children and young people will find a school close to home. Most learners can learn alongside their friends and peers.

Special School Provision

Children accessing a special school Foundation Stage class have long-term complex needs. A child can be considered for a place from 3 years once they have an Education, Health and Care plan. We fund places at:

  • Nancealverne (Penzance)
  • Curnow (Redruth)
  • Doubletrees (near St Austell)

Find out more about these schools on the Special Partnership Trust website.


Early Years Pupil Premium

The Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) is extra funding for early years settings. It is to improve the education they provide for disadvantaged 3 and 4 year olds. Settings can use it to provide new resources or pay for staff training.  They can buy in more support and new play or learning experiences. These can all help to improve outcomes.

Disablility Access Fund (DAF)

The Disability Access Fund is for three and four year old children who get child Disability Living Allowance (DLA). They must also get the free nursery funding entitlement. DAF is paid to the child’s early years setting as a fixed annual rate of £615 per eligible child. Read more on the Disability Access Fund web page.

Special Educational Needs Inclusion Fund (SENIF)

If a child needs a lot of extra support and they don’t already have an EHC plan, the setting can apply for extra funding to make sure they are included. This is through the Special Educational Needs Inclusion Fund. 

Graduated Response in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Most children with SEND in foundation stage provision in Cornwall have their needs met at SEN support. They are delivered as part of high quality early years practice. The Graduated response sets out advice about standards in the foundation stage for children across Cornwall.


Guidance for using the Developmental Journal

The new Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum (2021) is the legal framework for all Early Years providers. The new Development Matters (2021) guidance supports this.  However, for some children it is more appropriate to use a tool which offers greater guidance and evidences smaller steps. This is particularly true if the child is likely to be referred for an Education, Health and Care assessment. There are a range of assessment tools which can be used. The Early Support Developmental Journal is one of these and it has recently been updated to reflect the new EYFS.

These assessments are not to be used as a tick list, but provide guidance and support, and record small steps of progress. It remains a ‘best fit’ model.

Every Child a Talker (ECAT)

Every Child a Talker (ECAT) is a national project to develop the language and communication of children from birth to five years of age. ECAT strategies and resources are designed to help you to create a supportive and stimulating environment that encourages the development of early language through everyday fun and interesting activities which reflect children’s interests

A celebratory approach to SEND

A small group of professionals was tasked with developing a celebratory assessment tool for children with special educational needs and/or disability.  This work has been funded by the Department for Education.

All of those involved had a particular expertise or experience of working with children with additional and complex needs in the Early Years.  As a group, they reflected on the assessment of children with SEND within Early Years settings. The group considered current initiatives, studies, documentation and assessment tools as well as statutory guidance and legislation.

Birth to five

Birth to 5 Matters provides comprehensive guidance, drawing on previous guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) which has been updated in order to reflect recent research, to meet the needs of practitioners, to respond to current issues in society, to meet the needs of children today and to lay a strong foundation for their futures.


Below are a few of the key resources to support teaching and learning of SEND to Early Years. There are plenty more online.

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