How To Combine
The EYFS With The SEND Code of Practice

Using time, talk, training, and thought.
  • In the early years, it’s crucial that every child has the opportunity to learn and develop, including children with Special Education Needs or Disabilities (SEND).
  • Education Consultant and SEND expert Rebecca Fisk takes us through how linking the EYFS to the SEND Code of Practice can be a really helpful way to make that happen.
  • To do this, she explains why you need to find time for talk, training and thought around your SEND practice.

We are all unique.

In our roles as carers and educators for young children, it is our responsibility to get to know each child, to support them to voice and show their hopes, skills, and interests if they choose, and to encourage them to learn with curiosity and joy.

Each and every person brings their hopes, skills, interests and worries to work, to school, to life – whether they voice them or not.

In my view, the role of the early years SENCO fundamentally is to make sure that all children are included in this learning and joy, whatever their needs. In order to do this it’s essential that we work closely with parents, other professionals, and support the child’s key person however we can.

Combining the overarching principles of the Early Years Foundation Stage (the unique child, positive relationships, enabling environments, and that children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates) with the requirements of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice is a powerful way to make sure you’re doing this.

But it can’t be done without four fundamentals: time, talk, training, and thought.

Time to talk

We all need a little more time in our working lives. In particular, we need time to listen to and talk with families about their expert knowledge of their child.

We need time to talk with other professionals too, such as health, portage and family support workers in order to ensure staff have the widest knowledge of the child and their particular areas of need.

How to find more time in your setting

Rebecca rightly stresses the importance of time in helping to properly look after every child’s needs. But how do you find this time in an increasingly busy and stressful day?

That’s why we recently spoke with Nursery Owner and Manager Roopam Carroll all about some of the strategies she uses to find more time in her daily work life.

Among many tips and tricks, Roopam recommends:

  • Finding her team’s strengths and letting them play to those, rather than forcing them to work on their weaknesses.
  • Using an important vs urgent Priority Matrix (which Roopam explains in detail in the article).
  • Taking 30 minutes for yourself every day.
  • Finding a way to make the most chaotic times a little less chaotic, such as introducing digital registers for drop-off and pick-up.

Matt

Time to train

We need time to train. To learn about the legal responsibilities of the SEND Code of Practice, to learn about how to meet children’s needs, to develop confidence to support inclusive practice including familiarity with local authority funding processes.

This training includes helping staff to understand their responsibility as a key person to ensure all children make progress, whatever their level of need. The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (2017: p21) states that “providers must support staff to undertake appropriate training and professional development opportunities to ensure that they offer quality learning and development experiences for children that continually improves.”

Time for thought

It’s not just training and speaking. We need time for thought too.

Reflectively thinking about practice is intuitive to many early years practitioners, often on a practical level, which might result in them changing something to make it easier for children to access learning.

What about time to think about theory and guidance documents and their application to practice? I’d recommend you take time in staff meetings to focus on thinking reflectively around the inclusion of children. Think about and discuss strategies like story props, visual cues, and signing which help to include children with SEND, as well as better supporting all children.

Facilitating staff to think through and reflect on the following can be a great starting point. The Early Years Guide to the SEN Code of Practice (2014:p14) states that:

“It is particularly important in the early years that there is no delay in making any necessary special educational provision. Delay at this stage can give rise to learning difficulty and subsequently to loss of self-esteem, frustration in learning and lead to behaviour difficulties. Early action to address identified needs is critical to the future progress and improved outcomes that are essential in helping the child to prepare for adult life.”

It’s a statement like this, that makes it clear why a SEND quality improvement action plan can be so powerful. Below, I’ve created an example, linking the EYFS principles and the SEN Code of Practice principles. At the same time, it’s important to remember to make a plan that is specific to your setting.

And remember, sharing your thinking and learning is vital to improving inclusive practice. So give yourselves the time!

An EYFS and SEND Code of Practice Action Plan example

In this SEND Code of action plan below, there are four different sections to fill in. Each section starts with an overarching guiding principle from the EYFS, followed by:

  • The SEND Code of Practice Principle – A matching principle that should be observed by all professionals working with children and young people who have SEND.
  • Example actions for your setting – Ideas to put in place, including timescales and guided by the SMART principles (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely).
  • An example impact of these actions – You always need to reflect on your action plan, asking yourself – What difference did it make?
1. The Unique Child

Development Matters says: “Every child is a unique child who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.”

The Send Code of Practice Principle:

  • Taking into account the views of children, young people and their families.

Example actions for your setting:

  • Ask each family and child about their hopes and aspirations during each individual education plan (IEP) meeting – ongoing.
  • Make one target on the IEP relevant to this, e.g. a target relating to an independence skill – ongoing.

Example impact of these actions:

  • SD’s parents spoke more positively about his needs.
  • SD is now able to put on his own shoes with Velcro fastening.
2. Positive Relationships

Development Matters says: “Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships.”

The Send Code of Practice Principle:

  • Collaborating with partners in education, health and social care to provide support.
  • Enabling children, young people and their parents to participate in decision-making.

Example actions for your setting:

  • With parental permission, set dates to meet or speak with the health visitor or speech therapist together to review your IEPs – ongoing.
  • Ask families to co-produce the SEN policy to include children’s viewpoints by the end Feb 2020.

Example impact of these actions:

  • Integrated two-year-old review completed for three children since March 2019.
  • Policy reflects parents concerns about transition times and clear process now in place.
3. Enabling Environments

Development Matters says: “Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and carers.”

The Send Code of Practice Principle:

  • Focusing on inclusive practices and removing barriers to learning.
  • Making high-quality provision to meet the needs of children and young people.
  • Helping children and young people to prepare for adulthood.

Example actions for your setting:

  • All staff to research and share a strategy for inclusion (e.g. for children with communication needs) by the end of Nov 2019.
  • Each key person to change something in their practice in small group time by the end of Nov 2019.
  • All staff will review the routines and identify where independence can be encouraged (e.g. pouring own drinks) by the staff meeting on Oct 2019.

Example impact of these actions:

  • Eight new strategies shared and becoming embedded (e.g. story props). SD now able to stay for a short story.
  • Five key people have attended signing training and are using signing regularly. Children are more engaged and exhibit calmer behaviours at group time.
  • All children now pour their own drinks, self-selecting from a choice of different sized jugs.
4. Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates

Development Matters says: “Practitioners foster the characteristics of effective early learning of playing and exploring, active learning, creating and thinking critically.”

The Send Code of Practice Principle:

  • Identifying the needs of children and young people.

Example actions for your setting:

  • All staff will become familiar with Every Child A Talker monitoring tool and age-related language development posters (Communication Trust) by Dec 2019.
  • SENCO will share local speech therapy referral pathway with staff by Dec 2019.

Example impact of these actions:

  • ECAT tool completed for each two-year old as part of two-year-old review.
  • Three children referred to SALT since January.
When a plan comes together…

Ensuring an inclusive provision for children lends itself to embedding both the EYFS principles and those from the SEND Code of Practice in a coherent and coordinated way. It is important to give time to plan provision and talk about it with parents and within the setting. It is essential that staff are well trained and that this feeds into thinking about and informing the inclusivity of your provision.

Further reading and references

The Complete (and free) SEN Guide

Interested in more? Download the full guide to preparing an inclusive environment for every SEN child.

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