What should happen
All Early Year Providers (childminders, playgroups, nurseries, pre-schools) should identify and support children with special educational needs. The key person responsible is the SENCo, supported by the Area SENCo.
While some children's needs are identified at, or soon after, birth, some may have issues that are identified at the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) 'Progress check' at age 2, or when the child's EYFS profile is written.
Support in the Early Years varies enormously. There may be excellent support from Health (Consultant Paediatrician, G.P., Health Visitor as well as input from Physiotherapy and Occupational therapy) with full involvement of the family, leading to a clear diagnosis and identification of a child's needs, so that discussion about the need for an EHC assessment can start early.
Unfortunately, in some areas, there is little local integration of services and minimal involvement of parents.
If your child isn't getting the support they need
Discuss the matter with your nursery or pre-school.
You can request the Local Authority to undertake an EHC assessment for your child at any time, including before they enter education. For some children, it will be clear that an EHC plan will be needed very early in life. For others, any special needs may still be emerging. The Local Authority will always approach the pre-school or nursery for information about your child, including the support that has been put in place to meet their needs.
If your child does not have an EHC plan, you could ask the pre-school or nursery leader if they will support a request for an EHC assessment.
In may cases, it may be helpful to wait until the pre-school or nursery agrees an EHC assessment (a statutory assessment) is necessary, unless it is clear that your child has significant needs or if a transition, such as starting school, is approaching.
Even if your nursery or pre-school is submitting a request for your child to have an EHC assessment, you should submit your own separate 'parental request' (see template parental request for EHC assessment). Send the parental request by email or Recorded Delivery. The Local Authority must provide you with a Decision within 6 weeks of receiving a request from a parent - so establishing the date the parental request was received is very important.
Most Local Authorities provide schools and pre-schools with 'Criterial' for the type or level of need a child will need to have in order to have a statutory assessment. There may also be another set of 'Criterial for those children who are likely to need an EHC plan.
Some Local Authorities include these documents on their 'Local Offer' website.
Remember: these 'Criteria' are just Local Authority policies. They have no legal standing - they are just guidance.
If the Local Authority refuses to undertake an EHC assessment of your child's special educational needs, you will have two months to submit an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (SENDIST), from the date on the letter from the Local Authority informing you of their decision.
Chapter 5 of the SEND Code of Practice (2015) sets out how EYCFS settings should assess children and, if necessary, offer additional support.
It also provides information about the Early Years foundation Stage (EYFS) 'Progress check' at aged 2 (see paragraphs 5:25) as well as the EYFS profile (see paragraph 5:26)
Funding for Special Educational Needs in the Early Years
Nurseries and pre-schools do not receive any SEN funding as part of their overall funding (In some Local Authorities there is an agreement that additional funding will be provided to certain Early Years settings to enable them to offer placements to children with additional needs.)
Aids and Adaptations to your home: useful guide produced by Contact a Family for parents seeking information about aids and grants for adaptations to their home.
Information about Continuing Care (Information that may be relevant to parents of children with very severe medical conditions)
Information about Social Care assessments for children
Information about benefits that may be claimed for a child with a disability. See range of factsheets produced by Disability Rights UK.
The Children and Families Act 2014
The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage
The SEND Regulations 2014
The Equality Act 2010
Statutory Guidance: SEN Code of Practice (2015).
Chapter 5: Early years providers.
This chapter covers the identification of special educational needs from birth and provides guidance on how Early Years Providers should provide support children with special educational needs, including requesting an EHC assessment (also called a statutory assessment).
Chapter 9: 'Education, Heath and Care needs assessments and plans.'
This chapter provides essential guidance to the procedure a Local Authority must follow when deciding whether to secure an EHC assessment, who must be consulted if an EHC assessment is agreed, and how an EHC plan must be written.