SEN Support in the early years

Where a setting identifies a child as having SEN (a child or young person has special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty or disability which requires special educational provision to be made) they must work in partnership with parents to establish the support the child needs.

SEN support is the extra help offered to a child or young person to enable them to learn and make progress in their learning alongside others of the same age.

Where a setting makes special educational provision for a child with SEN, they should inform the parents. All settings should adopt a graduated approach with four stages of action: assess, plan, do and review.

This should be recorded within One page profiles/My support plan.

My Support Plan (MSP) document

MSP Guidance

The graduated approach to SEN Support


In identifying a child as needing SEN support, the early years practitioner, working with the setting Special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) and the child’s parents, will have carried out an analysis of the child’s needs. This initial assessment should be reviewed regularly to ensure that support is matched to need. Where there is little or no improvement in the child’s progress, more specialist assessment may be called for from specialist teachers or from health, social services or other agencies beyond the setting. Where professionals are not already working with the setting, the SENCO should contact them, with the parents’ agreement.


Where it is decided to provide SEN support, the school must tell parents. The practitioner and the SENCO should agree, in consultation with the parent a plan of support including:

  • the outcomes they are seeking,
  • the interventions and support to be put in place,
  • the expected impact on progress, development or behaviour,
  • a clear date for review.


The early years practitioner, usually the child’s key person, remains responsible for working with the child on a daily basis. With support from the SENCO, they should oversee the implementation of the interventions or programmes agreed as part of SEN support. The SENCO should support the practitioner in assessing the child’s response to the action taken, in problem solving and advising on the effective implementation of support.


The effectiveness of the support and its impact on the child’s progress should be reviewed in line with the agreed date. The impact and quality of the support should be evaluated by the practitioner and the SENCO working with the child’s parents and taking into account the child’s views. They should agree any changes to the outcomes and support for the child in light of their progress and development. Parents should have clear information about the impact of the support provided and be involved in planning next steps.

This cycle of action should be revisited in increasing detail and with increasing frequency, to identify the best way of securing good progress.

The graduated approach should be led and co-ordinated by the setting SENCO working with and supporting individual practitioners in the setting and informed by Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) materials, the Early Years Outcomes guidance and Early Support resources.

Involving specialists

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. The decision to involve specialists should be taken with the child’s parents.

The specialists can include health visitors, speech and language therapists, Portage workers, educational psychologists or specialist teachers, who may be able to identify effective strategies, equipment, programmes or other interventions to enable the child to make progress towards the desired learning and development outcomes.

Last updated: 8/23/2023