Early Years 0-5

There is a range of early years provision available for your child 0-5 years old. Some of these are specifically available for children with disabilities while others are as inclusive as possible. You may have heard other parents talk about Makaton or their Early Support Co-ordinator but not know what these service actually are and whether this service could be helpful for your child.

This section will give you information on what there is available for your child.

2 year olds in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or who have a statement or Education Health and Care Plan are entitled to free education from the term after their 2nd birthday up until the end of the term when they reach 3 years old. If eligible your child could receive up to 15 hours of free education per week.

For more details on this scheme and to find out if your child may fit the criteria click here

There are a total of 10 children’s centres located throughout West Berkshire. They provide a range of services to support parents and carers living in their areas with children aged 0-5 years old. The children also benfit from a chance to play and meet others.

For further information please click here.

Choosing a school is an important decision which will impact on your child and your whole family, so it is worth spending time looking at the options available. Understandably, concerns are even greater if a child has special educational needs (SEN); the aim of this guide is to provide advice to parents looking at schools for children with SEN.

General Guidelines

These guidelines will apply to any parent looking for a school. Start by looking at your local schools – visit two or three schools to get some idea of their facilities and ethos so that you have something to compare.

Keep an open mind – you might have heard things about the school from other people or even attended the school yourself. Remember you need to consider the school as it is now and what it will offer your child. Your personal experiences of school will inevitably affect the way you look at schools but it is your child who will be going to the school so try and look at things from their perspective.

There are advantages to attending your local school:

  • Local friends /siblings
  • Shorter travel time – easier transport arrangements
  • They are part of the community

Visit the schools more than once.

Find out the date of the deadline for applications. There is no automatic entry for any child e.g. children from a feeder school or if a sibling already attends the school. All parents with children starting school for the first time and those moving on to secondary school need to complete and submit an application form. Applications can be made on-line. It is important that you complete and submit your forms before the deadline otherwise your options may be affected. On-line applications can be amended at any time before the deadline – so the form can be completed in advance and changed if necessary.

Details of how to apply and the deadlines for applications can be obtained from schools or http://www.westberkshire.gov.uk.

Look well in advance to get some idea and then again nearer the time – time flies by and your child’s needs change but the timescales must be complied with and this is not a decision that you will want to rush.

Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Most children with special educational needs go to their local mainstream school and are taught with children of their own age. Sometimes they receive extra help from their class teacher who is trained to differentiate the curriculum according to the specific individual needs of the pupils. Additional special help may be provided by the school; and the class teacher together with the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) ensure that the child’s needs are appropriately met and their progress monitored.

Some children may need more specialist support and the school may seek advice from the Local Authority (LA) or other external sources e.g. speech and language therapy or occupational therapy. This means that professionals will visit your child in school and provide advice to the school on how best to support your child.

All children with SEN who fall into the above categories will be on the school SEN Register – they will be designated as requiring SEN Support if it is considered that their needs can be met within the school without the need for a Statement of SEN or and EHC plan.

Choosing a school for these children (those requiring SEN Support) follows the same procedure as all other children – although parents understandably have additional concerns they have the exactly the same rights as any other parent. As a parent of a child with SEN it is useful to consider the advice of the professionals who know your child and may have experience of the schools. Then visit the schools and consider your child’s needs and how they can be best met. When you have decided, you apply for the school following the standard process – it may be useful to state on the application form any information that you think is relevant.

Where children have more significant and / or complex special educational needs the Local Authority may undertake an EHC Needs assessment to ensure your child’s needs are fully identified and if appropriate issue a EHC plan. If your child has an EHC plan, the LA is responsible for ensuring that their education needs, as outlined in the plan are met.

If your child has an EHC plan.

If your child has an EHC plan, it is the responsibility of the local authority to ensure your child’s educational needs are met. In general, the LA will consider the nearest school to your home that is appropriate for your child’s needs. It is however, important that you to look round schools and know your preferred school as you will be consulted.

The EHC process puts children, young people and parents at the heart of decision making and you have the right to request the school of your choice.

The Code of Practice makes this clear in (Section 9, 78 &79): ‘The child’s parent or young person has the right to request a particular school, college or other institution of the following type to be named on their EHC plan:

  • Maintained nursery school
  • Maintained school and any form of academy or free school (mainstream or special)
  • Non-maintained special school
  • Further education or sixth form college
  • Independent school or independent specialist colleges (where they have been approved for this purpose by the Secretary of State and published in a list available to all parents and young people)

If a child’s parent or young person makes a request for a particular nursery, school or post-16 institution, in these groups the local authority must comply with that preference and name the school or college on the EHC plan unless:

  • It would be unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of the child or young person,


  • The attendance of the child or young person there would be incompatible with the efficient education of others, or the efficient use of resources

Special Schools

A small percentage of children with SEN have needs that cannot be met within a mainstream school and require more specialist provision. Only children with an EHC plan identifying specific needs attend special schools. Due to the low incidence of children with this high level of need there is a limited choice of appropriate specialist schools in each area. However it is useful to visit a couple of schools and most of the general points outlined above apply so these should be considered together with your knowledge of your child and their individual needs.

Looking round schools

  • Visit well in advance and more than once – all schools have Open Days and other events open to the public that you can attend, but before you reach your decision contact the school and ask if you can visit and have a tour during school hours.
  • Consider whether to go on your own – if you are looking at several schools it may not be appropriate to take your child with you until you have some idea of your own views or it is nearer the time, as this can be unsettling for a child. If possible, initially go with your partner or a friend as you will notice different things and it is useful to have someone to discuss your views with.
  • Before the visit think about the things that are important for your child and make a check list of the things you need to find out – see list below
  • Talk to the school SENCo – if they haven’t got time to talk then make an appointment to go back when they have got time. Take along any information you have about your child and explain their individual needs, discuss the school’s facilities and their experience of educating children with similar needs. Be open about your child’s needs – whatever difficulties your child has they will inevitably come to light at some point and the school may understandably feel aggrieved if they weren’t given the full picture. Most issues can be addressed if they are discussed and the right support can then be put in place. It is much better to be open, remember you may be working with the school for the next few years so it is important, and in your child’s best interests, to build up a good relationship.
  • Ask for a prospectus – this is useful to look back on after the visit and can be helpful to look at with your child if you decide on this school.
  • You may also wish to look at other documents eg. the latest Ofsted Report; The SEN Policy; The Accessibility Policy; The Behaviour Policy – or specific documents eg. The Administration of Medication Policy or The Toileting Policy may be relevant – these documents should be available on-line or from the school.
  • All local schools should be able to meet the needs of the majority of pupils with SEN in their area – there are clear advantages to your child moving up to their new school with friends from their nursery or primary school and being part of the local community. However, every school is different – you know your child best and therefore need to judge which will be best for them.

Things to consider asking

  • How does the school organise SEN support?
  • How many children will be in the class?
  • How does the school organise its day – what does a typical day look like?
  • Where will your child go at lunchtime?
  • What pastoral support is available in the school?
  • Will your child be able to access all activities – after school clubs, excursions and trips?
  • Does the school welcome advice / input from external professionals?
  • How does the school arrange their transition programmes (for joining a new school)? A good transition can be fundamental to a child settling at a school – similarly if the transition is not successful it can be an uphill struggle to put things right.
  • Do children use laptops routinely in the classroom?
  • Are there any accessibility issues for your child or special facilities (eg. toileting facilities or medical rooms) they require?
  • How does the school inform and involve parents – how will they communicate with you?

In addition if looking at secondary schools you should consider –

  • The SEN Department – The great majority of children with an EHC plan will have their needs met in their local mainstream schools, with additional support funded through a combination of school SEN resources and funding from the Local Authority. Extra help may take a variety of forms depending on the child’s needs, and will be set out in the EHC plan. Some children may need a higher level of support than can be provided in a local mainstream school. The Authority maintains a number of special resources attached to mainstream schools for children with particular types of SEN. For more details please ring the SEN Department on 01635 519713.
  • Does the school have supervised homework time? This can be invaluable for children who need help to understand the task and can prevent a lot of tension at home.
  • Is there somewhere your child can go / someone they can talk to if they have a problem?

After the visit

Think about –

  • Did you feel welcome?
  • Did the children look relaxed and confident?
  • Did the school seem under control?
  • Did the classrooms provide a good learning environment?
  • Was the school a happy and stimulating place to be?
  • Were all your questions answered?
  • Could you picture your child there?
  • How would your child get to school?

Remember whichever school you choose the best outcomes for your child will result from you and the school working together. Sometimes there are so many different things to consider that a compromise has to be made.

The school has to have the right attitude and want to support your child and you have to have confidence in the school. This will help your child feel positive about the school, as most importantly your child needs to feel happy and safe in the school setting – they will then be in the right environment to learn and thrive.

There is no substitute to visiting a school and asking questions about anything that you think is important. Visit as many schools as you can so that you get a good view of what provision is available for your child.

West Berkshire has two special schools, Brookfields School in Tilehurst and The Castle School in Newbury. Both cater for children with learning difficulties aged 2 to 19 who may also have other associated difficulties such as autism, sensory impairment or physical disability.

In a small number of cases children may attend a special school maintained by another Local Authority or a non maintained or independent special school if their needs can’t be met in West Berkshire’s own SEN provision.

Early Years Advisers:

  • advise and support Early Years Settings and schools on a range of inclusion approaches and strategies
  • promote the inclusion of children, (aged 0-5 years), who have disabilities and learning difficulties
  • train Early Years Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCos)
  • work closely with West Berkshire’s Help For Families Service and other services such as Pre-School Teacher Counsellor Service
  • provide support and guidance to Children’s Centres and signpost settings and parents to services available through their local Children’s Centre
  • advise parents about parenting through various programmes of support through access to The Families Information Service

Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech, in spoken word order. You can find out more about Makaton by going to the Makaton Charity website.

There are sometimes Makaton taster sessions available at local children’s centres.

EarlyBird is a programme for pre school/early development for parents whose child has received a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is of pre-school age (not yet of statutory school age).

The programme aims to support parents in the period between diagnosis and school placement, empowering and helping them facilitate their child’s social communication and appropriate behaviour in their natural environment. It also helps parents to establish good practice in handling their child at an early age, so as to pre-empt the development of inappropriate behaviours.

To find out more click here

The Early Development Inclusion Team is an early intervention service for children with additional needs (those likely to fall within the definition of Special Educational Needs and/or Disability). Teachers from the Service work in partnership with parents and carers, early years practitioners, and a range of health and social care practitioners to promote a child’s learning and development.

For further information click here

What services does West Berkshire Council offer?

  • It encourages the early identification of children (aged 0-5 years) who have disabilities and difficulties, so that outcomes improved.
  • It makes sure that early and appropriate intervention to support children, (aged 0 –5 years), and their families, is provided as quickly, and effectively, as possible.
  • It co-ordinates services and works with other agencies through support, guidance and attendance at meetings

West Berkshire Council has a number of services which may be involved and able to help. Click here to find out the about the professionals who may be involved.

From birth to two years

Some children, usually those with more complex needs, are identified at birth. You may notice that your child isn’t reaching milestones or developing in the same way as your other children. Standard health assessments might also identify medical and/or physical difficulties. If you are worried about your child in these early years you should speak to your GP or health visitor for advice.

Your child may need support for SEN and disabilities at home or in informal settings at this stage. You may be referred to the Pre-school Teacher Counsellor Service

If a health professional feels your child might SEN and/or a Disability, they must tell you and give you an opportunity to say what you think. In that way, they can consider what kind of support might best help your child. They also need to let your local authority know, and should be able to tell you about any voluntary organisations that might be able to provide advice or assistance.

It is important to remember that a delay in learning and development in the early years may or may not indicate that your child has Special Educational Needs.

Support from early years settings from age 2

All early years settings (such as nurseries, playgroups and childminders) that are registered with Ofsted have to follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). You should check with your setting if they are registered.

The EYFS is a legal framework that states all registered early years settings must have arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities. This includes providing you with a written progress check when your child is 2 years old, ongoing observations of your child’s progress, and a written assessment in the summer term of reception year in school. Your child’s health visitor will also carry out a health check on your child when they are about 2 and a half.

All early years settings must not discriminate, harass, or victimize disabled children. They must also make reasonable adjustments for disabled children – such as providing auxiliary aids (for example, tactile signs) – so that these children are not disadvantaged when compared with other children.

Children who have SEN will be able to receive SEN support. If your child’s SEN are very complex or severe, they might need an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. This might lead to an EHC plan.

If you think your child has SEN or a disability, or you’re just worried about the progress they are making, you should talk to your early years setting. You can also talk to your doctor or health visitor. They must tell you if they think your child has SEN or a disability and should discuss with you what kind of support your child might need.

Before starting school

Your child’s early years setting will produce an EYFS profile for your child in the final term of the year in which they turn five. The profile provides parents, practitioners and teachers with a well-rounded picture of a child’s knowledge, understanding and abilities. It is particularly for children with SEN and should identify any additional needs for support. A Transition Planning meeting may be arranged with the school your child will be attending so that they have a good understanding of your child’s needs.

Questions you might want to ask an Early Years setting

  • What can you (nursery/childminder) do to help support my child and meet his or her needs?
  • How will you keep me updated on progress with my child’s development?
  • What can I do to help them at home?
  • Where can I find information about early years providers locally that can provide the right support for my child?

Further information

If you want to know more about what kind of support your child’s early years setting provides for children with SEN or disabilities, you should ask them. Different laws apply to different types of early years settings, and the type of support available to your child is likely to vary depending on the type of setting.

For more information about support for children under 5 who have SEN or disabilities, please look at Chapter 5 of the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice. You can also check out the West Berkshire Local Offer here. You can also contact us with any questions here.