Special educational needs in early years

If you are concerned that your child may have difficulties with learning it is important to speak to someone as soon as possible – parents are often the first to notice any difficulties.

If your child has not yet started school, you could speak to your doctor, health visitor, or the Early Years Teaching and Support Service.

The range of support available is outlined in our booklets:

Early Years Action

Once a child aged three to five years has been identified as having special educational needs an individual educational plan will be drawn up that includes activities to help them learn and progress. This first stage is called Early Years Action.

The majority of pupils with special educational needs will have an IEP. The IEP is written by the school and records the important short-term targets and strategies:

Early Years Action Plus

If your child still does not progress then they move to the Early Years Action Plus stage. The nursery, playgroup or school will ask for help from professionals like an educational psychologist or a speech therapist. Your child's individual educational plan is reviewed and adapted, based on the advice of the support services involved.

At both these stages your views are important. There will be regular consultation with you.

Statutory Assessment

If your child has more complex needs that cannot be met by Early Years Action Plus, the nursery, playgroup or school may consider asking for a statutory assessment. Parents can also ask for an assessment to be made.


A childcare provider may need extra funds to meet the needs of your child, for example to pay for extra staffing or special equipment. To apply for this funding both you and the childcare provider will need to complete an application form.

The form is available on czone – the website for people working in Children's Services in East Sussex.

Key workers

If your child has a complex disability or special needs they probably receive a wide range of support services. If you would like help coordinating your appointments, and need some practical and emotional support, you could take advantage of the East Sussex Early Support and Care Coordination Scheme through the help of a key worker:

More help and advice

For more details on where you can turn for help and advice, see our page on SEN – where to get help.