Childcare or preschool for children with SEND

Childcare or preschool for children with SEND

For children who special educational needs and/or disability.

All children can attend early years settings (nursery, pre-school, playgroup, child-minders.)  Some offer spaces for babies, others offer spaces from 2 years upwards.  

Early years settings work to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework; the standards that school and childcare providers must meet for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5.

Your child will be entitled to up to 15 hours a week of funded childcare from the term after their second birthday if:

  • your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • or receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If your child doesn't have an EHCP or receive DLA, there are other criteria that might mean your 2-year-old could receive funded childcare. You can check the criteria here: Funded childcare for 2 year olds.

All children are eligible for 15 hours of funded early education per week from the term after their 3rd birthday. Funded childcare for children aged 3 to 4 years.

Where a child with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) attends a specialist setting (such as a Special School Nursery Assessment Unit or an Early Years Language Class), the funded hours must be allocated to these settings first before they are used with another setting. If a child attends a specialist setting for less than their funded entitlement, children will be able to receive their remaining hours at any other funded setting. 

You should not be charged for the free hours. Some childcare providers offer free hours at specific times and many providers charge for extra services (e.g. lunch, nappies, and specific additional activities). The cost of these extra services should be clear and transparent to parents.

Disability Access Fund

If your 3 or 4 year old is in receipt of a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) then your childcare setting can access a Disability Access Fund. This annual payment goes to the childcare setting of your choice to enable them to meet your child's needs. You will need to say on your Parent Declaration Form that your child receives DLA and provide a copy of the DLA letter to your setting as proof.  If you are using more than one setting, you must decide which receives the Fund (it can only go to one setting). You will get a Parent Declaration Form from your childcare setting.

Early Years support for younger children

If you think your child may need some extra help or support, speak to your early education worker (e.g. nursery or childminder) about the Early Years Inclusion Process (EYIP). You can find out more by visiting this webpage: Early Years Inclusion Process for parents

Worcestershire Children First Early Years team works with early years and childcare providers in Worcestershire to ensure all children access high quality early years education and care to support individual children to achieve their maximum potential in learning and development. 

More information about the Early Years Inclusion Team can be found here: Early Years Inclusion.

SEND support at early years provision

Most early years settings have staff who are experienced and trained to support a range of children with special educational needs and disabilities.  Each setting has a member of staff called a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) who works closely with parents and the services who are working with your child (e.g. Speech and Language therapists, inclusion team).  The SENCO supports all the staff in their setting to promote equality of opportunity for the children in their care.

Find out more about the role of the SENCO in the SEND Code of Practice, Chapter 5:

SEND Code of Practice 0 to 25 from GOV.UK

The SENCO will work in close partnership with parent/carers as you are the expert on your child.  You will be involved in a process called the Graduated Response, where early years staff and other professionals involved identify, assess, plan, and review the support provided to your child, and the impact on their development.  Everyone will work together to ensure the best possible outcomes for your child. 

You can visit the Early Years Inclusion team webpages to see what advice and guidance are given to early years provisions, all the resources and factsheets are useful for parent and carers too. 

The Graduated Response

Early years settings use the graduated response to support children with SEND and to identify children who have emerging needs.  The cycle of support follows this process:

  • assess: the child's needs
  • plan: to support their development in that area in partnership with parent carers
  • do: carry out the actions agreed
  • review: are the actions supporting the child's development or do they need to do something different?

Graduated Response (SEND support in education provision)

Worcestershire Graduated Response in Education Settings can be downloaded from this link:

SEND Graduated Response PDF Document (Worcestershire County Council)

You can also download the ‘The Graduated Response - recommended paperwork for new and existing SENCOs’ to see what the Early Years Inclusion team advise settings to do and the paperwork they should use:

The Graduated Response - recommended paperwork for new and existing SENCOs - Worcestershire Children First Education Services

Inclusion funding to support Early Years settings

Early years settings can apply for inclusion funding to contribute towards the support put in place within their setting for children with SEND. This, along with the settings responsibilities are set out in the Local Inclusion Fund - Ordinarily Available in Early Years Guidance:

WCF Local Inclusion Fund Guidance - Worcestershire Children First Education Services (PDF)

The key person or SENCO should discuss the funding they are accessing with you, so you are fully informed as to how they will be using the funding to meet the needs of your child.  This funding can be used to increase staff ratios, or to purchase resource or SEND training.

If your child receives disability living allowance (DLA), you can also nominate your early years setting to receive the Disability Access Fund.  This is an annual payment paid to the setting for children with complex needs who are accessing their 3 and 4-year-old funded places. For more information download our information sheet:

DAF and DLA Guidance - Worcestershire Children First Education Services (PDF)

Specialist nurseries for children in their preschool year

Your child may benefit from more specialist input in their preschool year, which could include:

  • a specialist language unit
  • a specialist nursery assessment unit

The units provide children with high quality specialist support and assess the level of support they may need on entry into school.

Children will be referred to these units (along with some other specialist services) from the Early Years Inclusion ProcessWith parent or carer permission, your early years provider, health or educational professionals can refer your child to the Early Years Inclusion Process.

Support on entry into school

If your child attended an early years setting or was known to a health provider, their special educational needs would have been identified and supported through the Early Years Graduated Response and an Early Years Inclusion Notification would have made to the Early Years Inclusion Process (EYIP). 

As part of the graduated response we would expect the nursery setting and/or additional professionals supporting your child to organise a transition meeting with their new school setting (supported by guidance from the Inclusion Support Service).  The purpose of this transition meeting is to share your child’s strengths, special educational needs as well as sharing what works well in supporting your child.  You should be invited to this meeting and be able to share your views.  Your child should be placed on the Special Educational Needs register from their first day at their new setting and the graduated response will continue building on what was in place previously. 

As part of the Early Years Inclusion Process, further support may have been provided by a member of the Inclusion Support Services.  If this was the case, this team member will support this transition and complete a review visit to your child’s new setting in their first half term, to ensure the new setting is fully supported in meeting your child’s special educational needs.

You can find out more about the Early Years Inclusion Process here: Early Years Inclusion Process for parents.


Education Health Care Plans (EHCP)

Children with SEND may qualify for an Education Health Care Plan, which details the support and educational provision early years settings and schools are required to put in place to ensure your child can meet their full potential.

Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP)

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