Last reviewed 2 April 2020
The special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice for children with special needs and disabilities, published in 2014, introduced the “Local Offer”. Liz Hodgman, childcare consultant, looks at what this means for early years settings and how they can meet the requirements of the code.
Chapter 4 of the SEND Code of Practice: 0 to 25 Years sets out the requirements:
“Local authorities (LAs) must publish a Local Offer, setting out in one place information about provision they expect to be available across education, health and social care for children and young people in their area who have SEN or are disabled, including those who do not have education, health and care (EHC) plans. In setting out what they ‘expect to be available’, LA should include provision which they believe will actually be available.”
The Local Offer has two key purposes.
To provide up-to-date information in a clear, comprehensive and accessible format about what provision is available for children with SEND and how they can access it.
To support provision to be more responsive to the local needs. Involving parents and children in the development and review of services will help them to achieve this and be more aspirational.
SEND Information Reports
Schools have SEND Information Reports to explain what their Local Offer is. It is recommended that early years providers also publish their own Local Offer document and call it a SEND Information Report as this will help parents with continuity when their child moves into the formal education system.
Publishing information on your provision’s SEND services is not only a requirement within the Code of Practice but also part of the Early Years Foundation Stage 3.72 of the Welfare Requirements regarding information shared with parents and includes “how the setting supports children with special educational needs and disabilities”. It is also set out in the Department for Education’s Model Funding Agreement 2.35 which states:
“The provider should be clear and transparent about the SEND support on offer at their setting and make information available about their offer to support parents to choose the right setting for their child with SEND.”
Completing a SEND Information Report
Completing a SEND Information Report is also a useful piece of evidence to share during an Ofsted inspection to demonstrate that you have regularly reflected on the support you provide to children with SEND or emerging needs and how this has improved over the years.
You can find online, templates from some LAs along with guidance on how to complete them. Check if your LA provides a template and guidance. If not, then look at some other boroughs’ templates and adapt one to suit your requirements.
These are some sample questions that could be used:
How will the setting help my child to settle?
What is the provider’s approach to supporting different children’s needs and how will that help my child?
Who can I contact for further information within the provision? (Who is the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)?)
How accessible is the environment, both indoor and outdoor?
What specialist services and expertise are available to my child through the provision?
How will the provision know if my child needs additional help (identification of needs/assessment)?
How will the provision involve me in my child’s wellbeing and their learning and development?
What qualifications, training or experience have the provision’s staff in supporting children with SEND?
How will the provision support my child during transitions, from room to room, age groups, or onto a new provision or school?
It is really important when writing your SEND Information Report that you consider the audience who is likely to be reading it.
Avoid using educational/early years jargon, “professional speak” and acronyms.
Use plain language.
Use bite-size: sentences, short paragraphs or bullet points to communicate the information.
Be realistic about the service your setting can provide.
Be honest about what families can expect from the provision.
Be careful not to raise parental expectations.
It must reflect the service that your provision can provide.
Do not include information on individual children your setting has supported as this is confidential.
Involving others in writing your SEND Information Report
Use your SEND policy to support you in writing the information report and have access to a copy of the Code of Practice as well as your LAs’ Local Offer which should be easily accessible online. It might be helpful to look at other provider’s SEND Information Reports; these can be found by searching on the internet or looking at other boroughs local offer websites.
When completing the SEND Information Report do not just work with the SENCO, involve as many of the staff team as you can, ensuring that all rooms within your provision are represented. If you are a committee-run provision then this document should be written with the committee member responsible for SEND and the final document should be ratified by the committee.
It is important to include how you have involved parents in the completing of the SEND Information Report. This could be through holding focus groups with parents who have children with emerging needs or a diagnosis so that they can be involved in the writing of the report, to sending out a draft copy and asking for feedback from parents. Sending out a survey or questionnaire will also provide input/feedback, this can be done through paper copies or via an online questionnaire, for example via Survey Monkey.
When completing the SEND Information Report, it is important not only to include the voice of the parents but also the voice of the children. This presents more of a challenge in the early years sector especially as many of the children with SEND have communication challenges. Observing how the children react when you make changes to the provision and the impact interventions have will all be valid contributions to the document.
Your LAs’ Early Years Quality or SEND Inclusion Team may be willing to read through your SEND Information Report and quality assure it for you, giving feedback and make suggestions, before you publish it.
The SEND Information Report should be included within your document review calendar and amended if there are any changes to the provision or additional parental input. The latest addition of the report should be published on the provision’s website and made readily available to parents requesting a copy.
Each local area has a SEND inspection which is carried out by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted within a five-year window. Although the LA will be one of the main parties to this inspection, it is a local area inspection and will include inspection of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), public health, NHS England for specialist services, early years settings, schools and further education (FE) providers.
During the local area inspection, inspectors will visit early years providers to gather evidence. They will be looking to see how providers and agencies work collaboratively together to improve the life chance of young children with SEND. If your provision is selected to be part of this inspection process, it is important to understand that you are not under inspection. The inspectors are not there to evaluate the effectiveness or quality of the individual provision. However, if during the inspection safeguarding concerns are raised they will ensure that they are being suitably dealt with in line with the provision’s policy and statutory guidelines. If the inspectors feel that children are at risk within the setting, this can result in a referral to the LA or trigger a formal Ofsted inspection.
The Framework for the Inspection of Local Areas’ Effectiveness in Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Children and Young People Who Have Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities can be downloaded from the link below.
The findings of the local area inspection are published on the Ofsted and CQC websites.