SEN and disability in the early years - for practitioners

The Children and Families Act 2014 defines SEN as:

  • A child has a special educational need if they have a learning difficulty, or disability that calls for special educational provision.
  • A learning difficulty is a significantly greater difficulty in learning, than the majority of children of the same age.
  • A disability is a disability that prevents or hinders a child from taking advantage of the facilities generally available.
  • Special educational provision is provision that is additional to, or different from that which is normally available in mainstream settings. For a child under the age of 2, special educational provision means provision of any kind.
  • A child under school age has SEN if he or she is likely to have SEN when they reach school age, or would do so if special educational provision were not made for them. 

The Role of the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo)

EYFS Providers must have arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities. All Early Years providers that are funded by the local authority to deliver early education places must have regard to the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice and identify a member of staff to act as Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo). Childminders are encouraged to identify a person to act as a SENCo and childminders who are registered with a childminder agency, or who are part of a network, may wish to share the role between them.

The SENCo is required to:

  • Ensure all practitioners in the setting understand their responsibility to children with SEND.
  • Ensure that children with SEND are identified and their needs are met.
  • Advise and support colleagues in the setting.
  • Make contact with other professionals and outside agencies working with children, such as Health Visitors and Speech and Language Therapists

SEND is the responsibility of everyone in the setting.

Statutory documents:


A range of training is available via the Cheshire East early years training hub This includes:

  • Role of the SENCo
  • First Concerns
  • SEND paperwork
  • Signalong
  • Use of visuals
  • Autism Education Trust modules

Page last reviewed: 17 November 2023

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