nasen Report: Identifying Special Educational Needs in the Early Years

PRESS RELEASE: nasen, a charity that supports and champions those working with, and for, children and young people with SEND and learning differences, has launched a new report to help improve early identification of, and support for SEN in the early years.

Whilst 80% of SENCOs were confident in their ability to identify SEN, a number of barriers were identified that are impacting their ability to do this and provide the necessary support. Staff training in this area was reported to often be lacking, with some SENCOS sharing concern that some less experienced members of staff have received no SEN training at all.

The report highlights worries within the sector that children presenting with ‘low levels’ of SEN could be being ‘missed’ as a result of time and resource restrictions on SENCOs resulting in a tendency to focus on children with more complex needs. One in 10 respondents report that they were allocated no time to dedicate to their role and almost a quarter (22%) were only given time on an adhoc basis.

Professor Adam Boddison, CEO at nasen, said: “Despite an overwhelming desire to support every child, early years settings are facing significant challenges in identifying SEND needs early and in implementing the necessary provision. This issue is becoming more urgent and pressing in light of COVID-19 and the additional challenges facing our SEND workforce. As we start to return to a new ‘normal’, the demands on early years professionals to support more children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) and social interaction needs will only increase, which is why we need to offer them as much support as we can.”

Dr Helen Curran, who carried out the research on behalf of nasen, said: “The research highlights the unique role early years practitioners play in the timely identification, and support, of additional needs. Intrinsic to this process is the priority placed on developing family relationships. Yet, whilst the research highlights good practice in terms of settings developing a holistic picture of the child and responding flexibly to needs, there are equally a number of barriers which prevent children from accessing support when required. Issues related to a lack of training and time were identified, in addition to challenges accessing funding and services. All of these factors can create a delay in early intervention, which we can hypothesise will further be exacerbated due to the current, ongoing COVID-19 situation.”

The report outlines 13 recommendations including:

  • Developing guidance to help determine the time allocated to the early years SENCO role in different settings
  • Sharing of good practice developed by early years SENCOs, particularly in relation to developing family relationships, should be facilitated across the sector and later phases
  • Ensuring more specific training is available in relation to speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). Speech and language was cited by participants as the greatest area of need in their settings
  • Undertaking further work to develop a greater understanding of the early years SENCO role across education, health and care sectors.

To read the full press release, click here.

To access the dedicated early years suite of free resources on nasen’s website, click here.

To access the full report, click here

nasen launches Early Years SENCO Twitter Chat – for more information click here

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