Inclusive early years provision

The early years foundation stage statutory framework requires all early years’ providers to have arrangements in place to support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

However, the Coram Family and Childcare’s 2024 childcare survey has found that only 6 per cent of local authorities in England have enough childcare places for children with SEND. 

Recent research showed that one in five families of children with SEND reported being turned away by early years settings. 

Often families who do manage to secure childcare for their children with SEND are unable to access all of their early years-funded entitlement, and there are concerns that this situation will get worse with new early years entitlements starting soon. 

The LGA has been working with the charity Dingley’s Promise to look at how childcare sufficiency is measured, as it is a complex question that, to date, no local area has managed to address effectively. 

We have facilitated several online discussion groups with local authorities and Dingley’s Promise has worked to develop suggested systems and resources that will enable councils to gain a better understanding of their local provision and services. 

Ultimately, our aim is to ensure that the childcare sufficiency assessment in every area actively focuses on supply and demand for children with SEND, to clearly understand whether there is a gap that needs addressing. 

Dingley’s Promise is also delivering a training package to address some of the barriers to inclusion. 

The package aims to help more early years settings to be inclusive of children with SEND and feel able to offer more places to children, with the confidence of being able to support their needs fully.

The training – funded by Comic Relief as part of a five-year grant – has been designed for flexible remote learning and includes webinars and resources for practical application of the learning. 

Courses available include: an introduction to early years inclusive practice; early years SEND transitions; behaviours that challenge; managing difficult conversations with families; and the voice of the child.

Practitioners who have completed the training report feeling confident and skilled in supporting children with SEND to learn inclusively in their settings. 

Critically, 96 per cent of trainees report that they can support more children with SEND as a result of completing the training. 

Learners have not only developed the skills to deliver high-quality early intervention but have improved their confidence and feel part of a bigger movement for change. 

The training also increases parental confidence about the early years and childcare settings their children attend and will improve the experiences of families trying to access provision, something that is a real issue within the sector.

We are working with several local authorities to understand more about the current barriers to delivering early years places for all children with SEND and are exploring what is behind the rapidly increasing number of requests for an assessment for an education, health and care plan. 

Find out more about Dingley’s Promise’s courses. To discuss the LGA’s early years SEND support for your local authority, please contact [email protected]


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