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Identifying and assessing children's needs in the Early Years

1. Early Years and Starting Primary School 2. Identifying and Assessing Children's needs in Early Years 3. Services and Support
4. Preparing for Primary School 5. Childcare Providers

2. Identifying and Assessing Children's needs in Early Years

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Early Years Providers (day nurseries, pre-schools, playgroups, registered childminder daycare and local authority Nursery Schools) are required to promote equality and inclusion, particularly for disadvantaged families, looked after children and children in need, to work with parents/carers to give each child support to fulfil their potential.  Providers funded to deliver early education places must ensure that they bear in mind the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, and that they effectively meet the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The Code of Practice states that Early Years settings should adopt a graduated approach to identifying and meeting the needs of all children, and that at each stage, parents/carers should be engaged with the setting, contributing to assessment and planning.  A SENCo will support individual practitioners and co-ordinate the graduated approach across the setting.


The Graduated Approach


Every setting will have an overall approach to monitoring the progress and development of all children with an on-going formative assessment based on observations which are used to inform future planning.  Your setting will follow The Early Years Foundation Stage, which will include two written assessments for parents and other professionals:

  1. Progress Check at age two
  2. The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile at the end of Reception

Following assessment from progress, where there is cause for concern, practitioners will work in partnership with parents/carers to agree how the child should be best supported and to ensure progress is regularly reviewed.



Practitioners and parents/carers will develop a plan to ensure children receive the appropriate level of support.  This may include:

  • Differentiated planning – with appropriate challenge reflecting the additional support for your child;
  • Provision mapping – provide an overview of how provision (i.e. activities, resources, routine, staffing organisation) meets the needs of your child;
  • An Additional Support Plan – records specific and measurable targets and strategies implemented to support targets, over an agreed period of time;
  • Any plan agreed will include a date to review your child’s progress with yourselves (parents/carers) and practitioners



The setting will ensure that children's individual key person and SENCo are able to implement the agreed plan and monitor the impact on your child’s progress.  Generally, the plan will be implemented within inclusive EYFS learning environments and will rarely involve your child being removed from their group.  The agreed plan will be informed by your child’s individual interests and needs and may be implemented as part of a small group.  Practitioners may record ongoing specific details of the progress your child is making towards the targets.

Many cases of children with additional or special educational needs will not require special resources or enhanced staffing to be successfully included in settings.  However, some children with complex needs may benefit from an enhanced staffing ratio for a time limited period, or from the provision of additional resources or equipment which can be provided through Early Years Inclusion Funding.

There are many support services and professionals to help support you and your child through the process.



The effectiveness of the support and the impact on the child’s progress will be reviewed in line with the agreed date.  This review will include parents/carers, practitioners and relevant professionals.  Meeting notes will be recorded and copies given to parents/carers and relevant professionals, with parental consent.  Details of meetings and interventions will be recorded on an ‘Early Intervention Record Sheet’ (commonly known as the gold sheet).

The possible outcomes of the review may be:

  • The child has made significant progress and further plans are no longer needed;
  • The child has made some progress but it has been agreed to continue to implement another plan;
  • The child has made little progress.  It may be agreed that additional plans are required and that other professionals may need to be involved to offer more specialist advice.  The consent of parents/carers will always be sought before seeking the involvement of other professionals

Families can seek further advice from their child's Early Years provider.

The Liaise information, advice and support service can provide additional information or support at any stage in the SEND process.

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