Christina Welsh & Adi Soni, NCB EYSEND Partnership

The Council for Disabled Children is the lead partner of the EYSEND Partnership and is part of the National Children’s Bureau. At our recent regional event for the Early Years SEND Partnership (EYSEND), representatives from the Office for National Statistics presented their report on the educational experiences of young people with SEN and disabilities in England.

The report shows how the early identification of SEND, including through formal diagnosis and obtaining a support plan in the early years, paves the way towards a positive experience at school in later years. As a parent/carer of a teenager with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) attending a mainstream school put it: “That is the foundation to everything that he’s achieving now. He wouldn’t be achieving that now if he hadn’t had the support that he did back in the early years.”[1]

The EYSEND Partnership believes that if we put in place the right interventions, care, and tools to support children from the early years onwards, they will have greater opportunities to thrive at school, in further education and in their working lives. Children who are happy, healthy, supported and develop relationships with their peers early on, are more likely to have positive educational experiences in the future.[2]

Members of the EYSEND Partnership work at a strategic level by bringing together local authorities, parents/carers, setting and school staff, health colleagues, and other representatives from across the sector. The aim is to gather all stakeholders in the same space to develop more coherent and robust systems for young children to access the support and care they need. Another key strand of the work is providing training, resources and a means to share learning, with the aim of increasing access and inclusion in the early years. Sign up to our newsletter to find out more.

This work takes place in a challenging context: there are mounting pressures on the sector, exacerbated by the hangover from COVID-19. Less than one in five (18%) local authorities in England report sufficient childcare for children with disabilities, a 3% decrease on 2022. [3]

Despite the challenges they face every day, the professionals, parents, and carers we work with are steadfast in their commitment and dedication to improving access and inclusion for young children with SEN and disabilities. We bring together these inspiring people from across the sector to work together to find joined-up solutions, and direct resources to those areas most in need.

Ensuring children’s voices are heard is at the heart of what we do at the EYSEND Partnership. This was an important focus for the in-depth study we conducted into the evidence of the programme’s impact in 2022-23. We interviewed local area partners about the EYSEND Partnership support they received and how it had positively impacted children’s lives.

One of the case studies from the impact report follows the story of Jemima (name changed), a looked after child who had a range of traumatic early life experiences who found it difficult to regulate and manage her emotions and behaviour.

When school placements had been confirmed, the setting worked closely with the school, her Special Educational Needs Coordinator, the new class teacher and other support staff visited the setting to play with Jemima and make her feel comfortable ahead of the transfer.

This approach helped secure a positive transition for Jemima.

The school said: “I felt really supported by the pre-school. They really were open to us coming to visit more than once. We know that our working together was really beneficial for Jemima’s grandmother – it really helped the whole process for Jemima that we had good communication and transition.”

The pre-school said: “The school really listened to us about our experience and concerns and treated us as professionals. It really felt like we were working together and sharing information to make the transition as smooth as possible. The school really invested in the transition process. Jemima’s school let her previous setting know she had settled in well and her grandmother dropped in to the setting to share that Jemima was doing well with her reading and despite moving to a new house, she had chosen to keep her there because of how well she had settled and was getting on.”

Transitioning from one educational setting to another can be difficult for all children, but particularly for children with SEN and disabilities. A report from the London School of Economics found that children with SEN and disabilities, for example, are twice as likely not to know anyone from their pre-school than their peers.[4] The case study demonstrates that an investment of time and care in transitions for young children like Jemima can have a transformative impact on their wellbeing and enjoyment of school. The EYSEND Partnership aims to make stories like Jemima’s the norm and not the exception.

The full EYSEND data and evidence report, including the full case study about Jemima’s journey, will be available on the EYSEND website soon.

Christina is Education Programme Manager and Adi is Programme Assistant at the Council for Disabled Children. The Council for Disabled Children is the lead partner for the EYSEND Partnership and is part of the National Children’s Bureau. 

[1] Educational experiences of young people with special educational needs and disabilities in England: February to May 2022, ONS [Link]

[2] Early detection of learning difficulties: from “recognizing risk” to “responding rapidly”, National Centre for Learning Disabilities, 2020 [Link]

[3] Childcare Survey, Coram, 2023 [Link]

[4] Inequalities in the experience of early education in England: Access, peer groups and transitions, LSE, 2019