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Early Years Education, Childcare and SEND

One adult sat on a sofa and another adult playing with toys alongside a child.

Childcare Settings and SEND

All childcare settings can meet the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). This includes nurseries, childminders and pre-schools.

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is national guidance. This guidance outlines how childcare settings should support all children in their learning. You can read the guidance on the main Government website:

The EYFS states:

“Children will have differing levels of knowledge, skills and abilities across the profile and it is important that there is a full assessment of all areas of their development, to inform plans for future activities and to identify any additional support needs"

The staff in a childcare setting will put together a written plan for each child with SEND. They will create this alongside parents and carers, health visitors or other specialists.

Your childcare setting might call the written plan a Specific Support Plan, a Setting-Based Support Plan, or a Provision Map. These should help assess your child's needs and plan their support.

If you feel your child should have a written plan then ask your child's key worker.

A written plan will list different ways of helping your child with their learning needs such as:

Early years professionals will help a parent or carer find the most suitable nursery or early years provision in their area. They can then help the setting to meet their child’s needs. Early years professionals include health visitors and the Early Years' Service.

Early Years’ Service (EYS)

The Early Years’ Service (EYS) supports pre-school aged children with SEND. This may include complex needs that create a barrier to learning and inclusion.

EYS also offer an 'Early Link' strand of the service. This is for children with significant medical and/or complex needs. To access this service, 4 or more professionals need to be involved in their care (excluding HVs and GP).

The Early Years’ Service also supports pre-school aged children who have English as an Additional Language.

Three children and an adult holding fruit, vegetables and a pinwheel. A wheelchair, clouds, the sun and some trees are in the background.

Finding and Choosing Childcare

A child with significant SEND should be able to attend any childcare setting with extra support.

The East Sussex Community Information Service (ESCIS) directory can help you find childcare in your area. The directory lists nurseries, childminders, playgroups and pre-schools:

Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY)

PACEY has advice on the types of childcare and questions to ask childcare providers. Visit their website to find out more:


Coram are a charity that works with families. They provide information on how to find a suitable nursery and what to expect, on their website:


Amaze are a local, independent charity. They produced a ‘Choosing Childcare’ fact sheet with Reaching Families for East Sussex families. This fact sheet links to appropriate East Sussex services:

Early Years - Milestones

Early years settings will track the development of children in their care. 

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) also ensures early years practitioners review a child's progress. They will then share a summary with parents at two points:

It is often during these progress checks that the degree to which a child might have SEND is identified. Planning is then put in place.

The Department for Education created non-statutory guidance documents to inform early years assessments. These documents explain how your child's development is monitored at these stages:

Early Years - Assess, Plan, Do, Review

When your child has SEND, their education setting should set out a written plan. This will explain how they will be looked after and how their learning will be supported. It may be called a Specific Support Plan, Provision Map or a Setting Based Support Plan. You can ask your child’s childcare setting what they call theirs.

All SEND support plans in East Sussex should follow the same process and steps. This is usually referred to as Assess, Plan, Do, Review.

It can also be called the Graduated Approach. This is to state the process of increasing and improving the level of support as more is learnt about the child and what works well for them.

These steps include:

  • Assess
The childcare setting will be assessing how your child is learning. They will do this by comparing their progress to key milestones, listed in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). EYFS is national guidance that maps out the learning standards for all children in a childcare setting.
  • Plan
The childcare setting should work with you and any specialist professionals involved. You should all then set out what support your child should get to help them meet their learning outcomes
  • Do
The childcare setting will carry out the support plan for a set period of time.
  • Review
The childcare setting will work with you and any relevant specialist professionals. They will then review your child's progress, where the plan was successful or what needs changing. The review process will decide if more support is required, or if your child is making progress with the support they are receiving. Usually, a review would happen 3 times a year.

The Assess, Plan, Do, Review process is a continuous cycle. This involves learning about your child, their needs and improving the support offered over time.

If your child has a support plan, it should be reviewed three times a year. Speak to your child’s childcare setting about how they carry out reviews and how you will be involved.

Four children and two adults playing in a playground. This includes two skipping ropes and a child playing hopscotch.

Early Years - Funding for SEND

Free education and childcare for 2-year-olds 

Often called Early Years Education Entitlement (EYEE), funding is available for some children. This includes receiving 15 hours free childcare from the age of 2. This can be dependent on the parent or carer being in receipt of certain benefits. Some children can also receive 15 hours free childcare if they: 

For more information visit the Help with childcare costs page on the East Sussex County Council website.

Early Year Inclusion Support Fund (EYISF)

Early Years Providers can apply for extra funding for up to 15 hours per week, term time only. This includes nurseries, preschools and childminders. This supports children with SEND or complex medical needs that are impacting on the inclusion within their setting.

The Early Years Support Service will usually provide this extra support.

Not all children with SEND will need this extra funding. Most SEND support is the responsibility of the childcare setting. To find out if a child or your setting qualifies for the fund, ask your nursery or childminder to complete an EYISF application form. This should then be sent to the Early Years Support Service.

Help that matches a child's attendance may also be available. This is for children whose parents are entitled to the 30 hours working parent/carer Early Years Education Entitlement (EYEE).

Disability Access Fund

This is an annual, one-off direct payment to your early years provider. It is for 3 or 4-year-olds from the funding period after their third birthday (January, April or September). They must also be receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

This is an annual grant of £615 per child. It is funding an early year provider can use to buy equipment to help make reasonable adjustments to the setting. 

The payment can’t split between two providers. If your child attends more than one provider, you must decide which one gets the funding. 

To enable your early years provider to make a claim:

Find out more by visiting the government web page for:

Early Years - Education, Health and Care Plan

An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), or EHC plan, is a legal document which describes:

An EHCP offers more involved and higher level support than a written plan.

A child under 5 should have an EHCP when their needs are severe. It is less common for a child under 5 to be considered for an EHCP. Most children receive an EHCP later in life. This is due to there usually being more evidence of the ways in which they are not meeting age-related expectations.

There is very little difference between an EHCP for a child under 5 and an older child. The teams helping to write it will be different as the child gets older. Childcare settings or early years specialists will include their views in a child's EHCP when they're younger than 5.

The Assessment and Planning (A&P) team co-ordinate all EHC assessments and plans.

However, in most cases a child under 5 will first be referred to the Early Years Service. You can complete the referral yourself, or it can be completed by a professional. This includes health visitors, a GP, a paediatrician or a childcare setting.

Children with EHCPs also go through a different process to apply for primary school.

Applying For and Starting School

Applying for school without an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)

If your child has SEND but not an Education, Health and Care Plan, they should apply for a mainstream school alongside other children their age. All schools are able to support children with SEND. Your child’s pre-school will also help communicate what support your child needs to ensure a smooth transition.

It is important to visit the school you would like to send your child to and speak to them about your child’s needs. Ask to meet with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo). All mainstream schools have a duty to meet the needs of children with SEND. This is set out in the national SEND Code of Practice.

We list mainstream schools on our directory, alongside their SEND and accessibility information:

Applying for school with an Education, Health and Care Plan

The admissions' system for children with EHCP is different. You do not go through the normal admissions' system.

Instead, part of the process of getting an EHCP involves getting a ‘named’ school. This means that you can express a preference for the school you want. This is at the time you first get the EHCP or when your child moves to a different phase of education.

You can also ask for a change of school at an annual review. 

A photo being taken of an adult and a child who is sat in a wheelchair, in front of a school. Another child is stood holding a book in the background.

Additional Help and Support

Health Visitors

Families of children under 5 with SEND should speak in the first instance to their health visitor about support they could receive. Health visitors have a broad role in supporting families where there are SEND needs. They can support you with identifying other services who can help. 

If you are unsure about any aspect relating to childcare settings and SEND you should speak to your health visitor.

To understand more about the role of health visiting and SEND, visit this websites' section on Health Visiting.


The Portage Service is a home visiting educational service for pre-school children.

They offer advice and support to families of children with profound or severe learning disabilities. These children may have other additional needs such as:

Glyne Gap School provide more information on the Portage Service on their website:

Support For You and Your Family

The East Sussex Local Offer has a page with advice and guidance for families. This includes different ways they can receive support. Find out more by visiting our Support For You and Your Family web page.


Amaze SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service) are a local charity. They offer free, independent, and impartial advice for all matters relating to SEND. Contact Amaze SENDIASS by:

Visit the Amaze SENDIASS web page.

East Sussex Local Offer directory of services

You can visit our SEND-specific online directory, hosted on East Sussex 1Space. The directory lists many different services both throughout the county and online. Services cover many topics, including:

Visit the East Sussex Local Offer directory.

NHS - Health A to Z

The East Sussex Local Offer aims to provide as much information as possible. There may be some conditions that aren't covered in thorough detail. The NHS website has pages that list all conditions. These pages provide information and advice on how to get extra support:

Visit the NHS Health A to Z web page.

Glossary of East Sussex SEND terms

We explain some of the terms used on this website on our page, Glossary of East Sussex SEND Terms.

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