Early Years Options in England
As your child’s SMA will have an impact on their physical abilities and health, this may affect their ability to access learning opportunities in pre-school, nursery and school. They will be entitled to be assessed as a child with ‘special educational needs and disabilities’ (SEND or SEN for short) and receive the support they need.
This section takes you through what you can expect during their early years and what questions to ask.
Page last reviewd / updated: March 2021
Next review due: March 2022
Free Early Education & Childcare For 3-4 Year Olds
All 3-and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year. This is often taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year.
Some 3 – 4-year-olds are eligible for 30 hours per week.
Some 2-year-olds are also eligible.
There are rules about who can provide the childcare, when it starts and when it stops. To find out more, including what’s available in your area, see: www.gov.uk/find-free-early-education
For information about help with childcare in:
What Every Early Years Provider Must Do
Early years options can include childminders, day nurseries, pre-schools, holiday playschemes and childcare in your own home. The law refers to these as 'early years settings' or 'providers'.
Mainstream settings must take steps to include and support children with SEN and any medical condition they have.
No provider can refuse to take your child because of their SMA. They must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the way they provide a service. This is to make sure all children are able access their activities and facilities. Your Local Authority has a duty to make sure that all settings that provide free early education receive additional funding to support children who need extra help. It also has a duty to make sure there are enough early years options for all families in the area who need it and must help you find the right one for your family.
Some providers specialise in support for disabled children and children with special educational needs. If your child’s SMA is causing severe health and / or mobility challenges, they may be offered a place in a specialist nursery.
All early years providers must follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. This includes having arrangements in place to support children who have medical conditions like SMA.
Early years settings use this framework to continually observe and review how your child is learning. It includes two formal reviews:
- one at age two, looking at language and communication and physical, personal, social and emotional development
- one at age five, looking at literacy, mathematics, understanding the world and expressive arts and design.
You should be asked to contribute towards these reviews.
If your child is refused a place at an early years setting of your choice, and you believe either the provider or the Local Authority is failing in their duties, you have the right to challenge this decision. There is good advice about how to do this here: www.contact.org.uk/advice-and-support/work-childcare/refused-childcare/
What Additional Support Can You Expect
Early years settings that receive government funding must have a Special Educational Needs Coordinator or SENCO. This is a teacher who is responsible for making sure all the children with SEN have the support they need.
Your child should also have a named keyworker - who has day-to-day responsibility for your child. This is the person to speak to first if you have any worries or just want to talk about how your child is doing.
You should expect to work with the SENCO and other staff to assess what will be challenging for your child in their early years setting. You will be able to let the staff know what help you have to give your child when and work out with them how your child will be helped similarly. This should all be recorded in a written plan with an agreement as to when you will review the plan to check that is working or if there need to be any changes. This wouldn’t though stop you raising any concerns you might have at any time.
If your child needs more help than the early years setting can normally provide, for example, your child may need a lot of adult support for most or all of the day, they may need an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. This is the first step to getting an EHC Plan. It’s a legal process carried out by the local authority and quite separate from any other assessments or plans your child may have. It can be requested at any stage during your child’s education. Either you or your early years setting can ask for this.
You can read more about about how the system for getting support works in the section: Understanding the Education Support System in England.
If Your Child In England Needs More Support Via An Education, Health & Care (EHC) Plan
You can find more information about this here: If Your Child in England Needs More Support Via an EHC Plan.