Early years provisions need to use the Early Years: Guide to the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice if they receive funding from the local authority as well as Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 Years to support their identification of children with special educational needs and to provide a graduated response.

Provisions need to have in place a SEN co-ordinator (SENCO) or have identified one.

The Council for Disabled Children and the National association for Special Educational Needs (NASEN) work with the Department for Education to develop training resources for early years SENCOs.

Since 2018 there is a set of specification criteria for Level 3 National Qualification for Early Years SENCOs as set out by the Department for Education, which are “intended to support early years practitioners to gain accreditation for the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to perform the Early Years SENCO role effectively. The qualifications are not mandatory.”

It is important to note that the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice states that maintained nursery schools must identify a member of staff (with QTS) to act as Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). From September 2009 every new SENCO in a maintained school is required to gain the Master’s-level National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator within 3 years of taking up the post.

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