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Early Years (Early Years Offer)

In Sefton you can access a whole host of safe, high quality childcare and early learning opportunities. You can find details of all local childcare settings right here on the Sefton Directory.

Universally all three and four year olds across Sefton are entitled to 15 hours free learning and development. Alongside this 40% of vulnerable two year olds are also entitled to 15 hours free learning and development. The following criteria is applicable to the 40% of two year olds, they need to meet any one of the following criteria:

  • If they meet the eligibility criteria also used for free school meals
  • If their families receive Working Tax credits and have annual gross earnings of no more than £16,190 per year
  • If they have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
  • If they attract Disability Living Allowance;
  • If they are looked after by their local authority
  • If they have left care through special guardianship or through an adoption or residence order

We also extend the offer to Care Leavers (under the age of 25 years).

Two, three and four year old provision is provided in a number of early years settings including: maintained nursery schools, maintained nursery classes, private and voluntary nurseries, independent sector and childminders.   

Below you can see a breakdown of the important elements of accessing early years provision for children with Special Educational Needs (SENs) or disabilities.

1. Child's transition to a new school or setting

SEN support for children in the early years should include planning and preparing for transition, before a child moves into another setting or school.  To support a young child’s transition, information should be shared by the current setting with the receiving setting following agreement with the child’s parents/carers.  The child’s parents/carers themselves should be consulted by the receiving setting and will be in a position to provide important information about their child’s strengths and needs. 

External agencies such as the Sefton SEN and Inclusion Service – Early Years team can provide support for children aged 0-5 years with SEN or disabilities who are transitioning into early year’s settings, including schools.  The team link closely with parents/carers, attend transition planning meetings and provide information and advice to receiving settings.  Liaison also takes place with other agencies in order to help coordinate services.   Where a child with SEN or disabilities transfers into the Reception class of a mainstream school, the Sefton SEN and Inclusion Service - Early Years team can remain involved until the end of the child’s first term in school from which point it is expected that schools consult with services for school aged children and young people if further involvement with a child or young person is thought necessary.

2. Social and Emotional Development

Early years providers can request involvement from the Sefton SEN and Inclusion Service – Early Years team if they require access to direct advice and guidance in supporting the emotional, mental and social development of young children with SEN or disabilities.  Training is offered to early years providers.   Interventions such as Portage also offer direct input and advice to families in supporting the emotional, mental and social development of children with SEN or disabilities aged 0-3 years.

Across the early years sector physical development is a key area of focus. Within Early Years Foundation Stage (2012) physical development has been identified as a prime area of learning. As such it is crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive. Across all providers opportunities for physical development both indoors and out are integral to daily activities and opportunities. Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive and to develop their co-ordination, control and movement. Young children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity and to make healthy choices in relation to food.

Supporting all young children’s social and emotional development is also a prime area of development within Early Years Foundation Stage 2012. Within the early years this involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings, to understand appropriate behaviour in groups and to have confidence in their own abilities. Once again activities and opportunities to address these are firmly embedded throughout the day.

3. Quality of Provision

All early years providers should regularly review and evaluate the provision they make for young children with SEN or disabilities.  The Sefton SEN and Inclusion Service – Early Years team works closely with early years providers, providing advice and support about approaches to identification, assessment and intervention.  The team also provides day to day support to Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) in Early Years settings – this includes advice and guidance to ensure arrangements are in place to support children with SEN or disabilities and reinforcing expectations around good practice.

4. Securing Specialist Services

All early years providers are responsible for meeting the needs of young children with SEN or disabilities and must use their ‘best endeavours’ to secure the special educational provision where required – that is, provision, that is additional to or different from that made generally for children of the same age. Early years providers should track and monitor young children’s learning and development. Where a child continues to make less than expected progress despite evidence-based support and interventions matched to the child’s area of need, early years providers should gain parent/carer consent to involve relevant external agencies and professionals in order to help secure any additional services, provision and equipment required to meet the child’s needs.

5. Building Capacity

The Sefton SEN and Inclusion Service – Early Years team works with early years’ providers to develop staff awareness of SEN or disabilities.  This can be through casework involving individual children and also through training.   Core training is offered to all early years providers around specific types of SEN, for example Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as around different areas of learning and development, for example, social, emotional and behavioural development.  Local area early years network meetings offer a chance for early years practitioners to meet to share good practice and to raise awareness of issues specific to SEN and disability.  Training packages for settings offering funded early education for two-year olds are also available.

6. Tracking a child's progress

The effectiveness of support provided and its impact on the child’s progress should be reviewed by the setting at an agreed date as part of the assess, plan, do, review cycle.  The impact and quality of the support should be evaluated by the setting, working with the child’s parents and taking into account the child’s views.  This graduated approach should be led and co-ordinated by the setting SENCO, working with and supporting individual practitioners in the setting and informed by EYFS materials and Early Years Outcomes.  Where a child continues to make less than expected progress, despite evidence based support and interventions that are matched to the child’s area of need, practitioners should consider involving appropriate specialists.

7. Adapting the curriculum and learning environment

Where a young child is identified as having SEN or disabilities, early years providers must work with parents/carers in establishing the support the child needs.  There should not be a delay in making any necessary special educational provision – settings should adopt a graduated approach around assessing a child’s needs, and planning and implementing strategies before reviewing them for their impact and effectiveness.  Where concerns about a young child’s progress persist, advice and guidance should be sought from external agencies around how to further tailor the curriculum and adapt the learning environment in order to promote the child’s learning and development.

8. Consulting with parents

Planning for young children with SEN and disabilities should start with the individual child in order to ensure that their needs and aspirations and the needs and aspirations of their parents/carers are taken into account.  This will enable effective, person-centred planning to take place whereby relevant outcomes and the support required to achieve them are agreed as part of the consultation process.  All early years providers should involve parents/carers in supporting their child’s learning and development.  When there is a need to involve an external agency the child’s parent / carer should give consent to this and should be included in the planning and reviewing of provision.

9. Identifying children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Anyone, including a child’s parent/carer, health visitor or paediatrician can bring a young child who they believe has or probably has a SEN or disability to the attention of the local authority.  For some children, their special educational needs can be identified very early on, whilst for others their needs become more evident as they grow older.  For children in a setting it is important that all early years providers get to know each child as an individual first and foremost, gathering information in a variety of ways in order to assess their learning and development.  Liaising with those who know a child best, especially parents/carers is particularly important.  Where a SEN is identified, early years providers should put appropriate evidenced-based interventions into place and review these interventions over time for their effectiveness.  Should concerns about a young child’s progress persist, the early years provider should seek parent/carer permission to involve external agencies in order to help further identify a young child’s presenting strengths and needs.

10. Key person

Across the early years sector there is a strong commitment to working with and alongside parents. All children’s individual needs should be met through an effective key person system. The key person must seek to engage and support parents and/or carers in guiding children’s development at home. Both ongoing (formative) assessment and a summary judgement (summative assessment) must be made based on observations of children at play and how they are learning. Practitioners should address any learning and development needs in partnership with parents/and or carers, and any relevant professional

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