Statement on Government’s SEND and alternative provision improvement plan


2nd March 2023

We welcome the release of the Government’s SEND and AP Plan, and are particularly happy that within this plan, early education is repeatedly acknowledged to be a key stage in the wider educational journey of every child.

The Plan recognises ‘the important role of the early years sector in the early identification of needs and in building up effective working relationships with parents about their child’s needs’. Reflecting on the consultation process, the Government notes that ‘respondents highlighted the crucial role of high-quality early years support in preventing unnecessary escalation of need and providing children with a strong foundation for their future educational journey.’

For the early years sector, this formal recognition of the vital role we play in providing the best start for children with SEND is crucial and we appreciate the actions taken by the government in response to requests for more details on the early years in the plan. We also welcome the news that the review of the Level 3 early years educator qualification is likely to see the addition of a section on SEND  which will  increase knowledge, understanding and confidence of all newly qualified early years practitioners to work inclusively.

The key action linked to the early years is the commitment to provide more Level 3 Early Years SENCO training. While this is important, we agree with the view also expressed in the plan that ‘a whole-setting inclusive ethos improves the sense of belonging for those with SEND’. We would therefore encourage development of the  plan to incorporate inclusion training for ALL early years practitioners rather than focusing only on the SENCO.

We welcome the inclusion of early years in other areas of the plan including; the focus on high quality early intervention, the creation of practice guidance, national standards, early years sufficiency data, transitions to school, Ofsted area inspections and funding.

As a charity running early years specialist Centres across the country and delivering a vital service, we are concerned that early years is not mentioned in conjunction with strengthening AP provision. We would encourage the analysis of the use of independent specialist AP in the early years to understand whether this has similar benefits for children and families as it does later in the education system. If similar benefits are found, then there should also be a focus on supporting the development of more of this kind of provision in the early years.

We are committed to supporting the development of the SEND and AP system as described in the plan, with a focus on ensuring that where the plan makes clear recommendations in relation to early years, these result in clear actions.

This is an encouraging starting point for an improved SEND system that acknowledges the early years as a vital stage in all children’s development and recognises that early intervention is critical both for both children and families.

Catherine McLeod – CEO Dingley’s Promise

Read the Government plan in full here