Leading children’s disability charity, Dingley’s Promise have secured £187,811 from The National Lottery Community Fund to embed and roll-out a pioneering model of working, supporting children under 5 years with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to have greater access to mainstream settings.
Operating in Wokingham for 23 years, Dingley’s Promise is building upon their reputable, high quality support to local children and their families with an ambitious five-year project.
Research indicates that the gap between children with special educational needs and their peers is growing, as only around 25% of children with SEND are accessing the free 30 hours entitlement. With only 22% of local authorities currently having sufficient early years spaces for children with SEND, Dingley’s Promise’s innovative entry exit pathway model has aspirations of being an example of best practice, leading innovation and change in the sector.
This new way of working will consider not just a child’s educational attainment, but also the capacity of local mainstream settings, and also their family’s needs – taking them on a journey of support and development until they can experience the mainstream if appropriate for them. Once embedded, Dingley’s Promise will spread this good practice within the early year’s sector, encouraging positive change for many children and their families.
The development of the entry exit pathway has been a very important process for Dingley’s Promise, and for the families that they work with. Last year, 72% of transitions out of the organisation were to the mainstream – with families involved in the process from the very beginning. Those families say that the organisation consistently sees the promise in their children, even when others do not – a key strength of Dingley’s Promise. While mainstream education may not be the best option for every child, this work will ensure there is a clear pathway for those in specialist early year’s settings to transition to the mainstream if it is the right option for them.
Chief Executive Catherine McLeod MBE said: ‘As an organisation, we believe in the best start for every child – regardless of whether it is special education or mainstream – but we also believe that in the past too many children have been unable to access the mainstream when it could have benefited them. With this project we hope to make a big impact on inclusion by helping to ensure that every child who will benefit from mainstream education has the chance to access it, and we are so pleased that The Big Lottery has also seen the value in this work and chosen to support its development.’