The term SEND is used to describe children (or young people) with special educational needs and/or disabilities. A child with a special educational need is one that has more difficulty with their learning than their peers and requires additional support. This difficulty maybe mild and transient or more severe and long lasting as a result of a disability.  A disability is an impairment that has a substantial and long term affect on a child. 

How can settings ensure that children with SEND are supported?

Funded early years settings should follow the SEND Code of Practice and check that the requirements outlined in the Code are incorporated into all aspects of their provision. This ensures that children’s needs are identified early, appropriate support is given and children are referred onto external agencies if their learning and development continue to be a concern.  Non-maintained settings are expected to identify a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) to support children with SEN. 

If a child is also disabled then the child is offered support and protection under the Equality Act 2010.  Additional duties are set out within the Act for those settings in receipt of public funding.

Order your own copy of the SEND Code of Practice 2014 for the Early Years publication, which guides providers through the key steps to identifying and supporting children with SEN or disabilities.

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) inspection framework for local areas

Ofsted's framework for the inspection of local areas’ effectiveness for identifying and meeting the needs of children and young people (aged 0-25) with SEND (2016), follows on from statutory duties contained within the Children and Families Act (2014) and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice (2014).

Ofsted and Care Quality Commission inspections hold local areas to account but also offer appropriate support to improve outcomes. Although the local area inspections do not focus directly on registered early years providers, these settings may be visited during inspection to contribute towards evidence gathered by inspectors to identify how well local providers and agencies are working together and contributing towards positive outcomes for children and young children with SEND. To ensure that early years providers contribute favourably to this inspection process, settings should ensure that their practices meet their own institutional inspection and legislative requirements for identify and meeting children’s SEND.

For more information on the framework, go to: