Last updated: 14 May 2024

Next review: 12 April 2025

Early Years SEND Support

Find out how children with learning and developmental delays or special educational needs and disability (SEND) are supported aged 0 to 5 years old. This includes what they receive before starting an early years setting and then once they begin their early education at a setting.

A multi-agency approach will be taken between education, health, care, and other services to jointly support your child through their early years.

Useful words and phrases to know

Early Years

Refers to all children from birth to five.

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)

A child or young person has SEND if they have a learning difficulty and/or a disability meaning they require special health and education support.

Learning and development delay

If there are concerns about a child’s learning and development in their early years, this is referred to as developmental delay. It is too soon to use the term SEND.

Early Years Provider or Setting

Different terms are used to group together nurseries, preschools, childminders, nurseries in a school, and nursery schools. All offer childcare for under-5s and have a statutory duty to provide early education following the Early years' foundation stage statutory framework.


The Code of Practice states that a school/academy should be named on a child's Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) by 15 February in the year of transfer.

The name of the school goes into Section I of the EHC Plan

This is to allow parents/carers enough time to appeal to the Special Educational Needs & Disability Tribunal (SENDist) and receive a decision before September in the year of transfer to the school.

Things to consider when choosing a school, are what is important for your child and family. Do they want to:

  • Be at the same school as their brothers & sisters
  • Spend time outside – what do the timetable and playground look like
  • Be in a small school where everyone knows them well
  • Be in a big school with lots of other children with SEND
  • Have access to a quiet area
  • How will you walk to school, what is the route and distance? Will you be walking or driving? Are there accessible parking spaces/blue badge if necessary?
  • Will your child be going to breakfast club or after-school club

When choosing a school do your research and look at:

  • Visit the school website - SEN Policy, Behaviour Policy
  • Read the SEN Information report
  • Read the OFSTED report
  • Talking to other parents who have children already attending the school. Particularly those who have a child with an EHCP or additional need and how the school is meeting their needs.
  • Contact the SENCOs of the schools on your shortlist and arrange a visit or see a virtual tour

Think of questions to ask the SENCO:

  • What training will the staff be planning to undertake for any specific additional needs? Who will be providing this training?
  • How do you support children in the classroom?
  • How do you share and discuss my child's learning and development needs and progress throughout the academic year?
  • How would your school carry out therapy programmes? Who provides the therapy assessments and advice?
  • For children who are not toilet trained, how will their self-care needs be met?
  • My child uses specialist equipment  - do you have any experience with this? Are your toilets accessible? Where is the lift?
  • How do you talk to children about disabilities and special needs in your school?
  • What support will my child receive during lunchtimes and break times?
  • What are pick-up and drop-off arrangements and other facilities available at the school? Size of classes and classroom? Staffing of Reception Class? Daily school routine?
  • What support is offered to parents and children with SEND?
  • How do you communicate with parents of children with SEND on a weekly basis?

Some parents consider deferring their child's entry. There are things to be aware of if you wish to defer entry for your child. 

  • Legally, your child must attend school the term after their 5th birthday
  • Depending on when your child’s 5th birthday falls, you may request deferred entry for your child to start in reception class in January or April.
  • Even if you want your child to defer a year, you must apply anyway. Once you have been offered a school you will need to liaise with the head teacher of your school about your decision.
  • If your child is born between June and August and you wish to delay your child’s entry to school by a year. For example, if you want your child to start reception in September 2023 instead of September 2022, you still need to apply for September 2022.
  • If your child has an EHC Plan, you will need to write to the SEND department requesting delayed entry. You must then contact school admissions by email notifying them of your decision and it will be considered by a panel in May.
  • If it is agreed, you will need to make a fresh decision the following year. You may or may not be given the same school depending on the oversubscription policy in that year.

Applications for schools for children with an EHC plan and for those in the process

Applications are to be made for school for children born between 1 September and 31 August and all parents must make an application to the Local Authority online. In exceptional circumstances, a paper application can be completed. The deadline for applications is 15 January. Parents will be informed of the school that is offered on 16 April. The SEND department will consult with the schools of your choice. If your child already has an EHC plan, your child will be offered the school named on their plan. If your child’s EHC plan is in process on 16th April you will be offered a mainstream school – this may change later. General school admissions will secure your child a place, but your child will not be treated preferably until the EHCP is in place. Children not being considered for an EHCP cannot be considered for a special school place –mainstream schools have a budget they can use to provide additional support and can apply for an EHCP at any time if they feel your child needs it

Naming a school on your child's EHC plan

The Code of Practice states that the Local Authority must agree to a parental preference for a maintained school/academy unless the following applies:

  1. The school /academy is unsuitable for the pupil’s age, ability, aptitude, or to his/her special educational needs
  2. The attendance of the pupil at the school/academy would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for the pupils with whom he/she would be educated
  3. The placement is an inefficient use of the Local Authority resources and there are no reasonable steps that the Local Authority or the school/academy could take to prevent the incompatibility.

If you would like your child to attend a school out of the borough, Waltham Forest must write to the Local Authority where the school/academy is situated and also the head teacher of the school/academy. Most Local Authorities try to place children in their local community. If you ask for a school/academy outside of the Local Authority we may also consult with local schools/academies to ensure that your child has a place for September.

If you need advice and support around choosing a school for your child, please also contact your child's SEN Officer. You can contact them by emailing

The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Independent Advisory Service can also help you with any questions you may have. Email SENDIASS at