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Education & Learning

Section 8 – Writing an SEN Policy and Action Plan for Settings in the Private, Voluntary and Independent Sector


Why have an SEN policy?

Writing the Policy - Good Practice

Key elements of an SEN policy: guidance and examples




This section outlines the reasons it is necessary to have a policy for Special Educational Needs in Early Years settings and provides pointers towards good practice in writing a policy. It provides detailed guidance and examples of the key elements that should be considered for inclusion in a policy.



Why have an SEN policy?


An SEN policy is a statement of the beliefs, values and goals of an organisation. It should reflect the ethos and practice of the setting and outline procedures.  An SEN policy should be tailored to an individual setting.  It is a working document that everyone in the setting shares a responsibility for and works together to deliver.


Increasing numbers of children with special educational needs are being successfully included in a range of early years settings/schools.  It is vital that settings have a clearly written policy which describes how they aim to identify children who may be having difficulty, support children with special educational needs and promote inclusion.


There is a legal requirement for all early education settings to have a written SEN policy, which is likely to be looked at during an OFSTED inspection.  The policy must have regard to the Code of Practice for SEN (2001)and contain information as set out in the conditions of the Nursery Education Grant.  As with all policies, it must be subject to a regular cycle of monitoring, evaluation and review.


The statutory requirements are set out in the following publications:


Special Educational Needs Code of Practice 2001

Requirements of the Nursery Grant 2002/3

National Day Care Standards


To obtain a copy of any of these publications write to:


DfES Publications

PO Box 5050

Sherwood Park



NG15 0DJ


Telephone: 08456 022260

Fax           08456 033360


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Writing the Policy - Good Practice


Writing the policy is not just the work of the setting/school-based SENCO.  The setting/school should plan time to enable all care and education staff to contribute.  Where this is difficult it might be easier to circulate a draft and ask for written responses.  Settings/schools should bear in mind that parents/carers should be consulted as well.  The setting/school may want to have a parent/carer representative on a working group when developing their policy.


Remember that the policy is a working document and should be accessible to all staff and parents/carers.  All care and education staff need to discuss the draft before the policy is finalised, to ensure joint ownership and understanding.


It is important that the policy is user-friendly and accessible to staff and parents. 

Ensure that the policy is easy to read and understand.  Provide a clear layout with information in a logical sequence and  with headings.  Avoid jargon and explain abbreviations such as ‘SEN’ or ‘IEP’.


Whilst it may be important to cross-reference your SEN policy to other policies and documents within your setting/school, remember the SEN policy also needs to stand alone as a document.  Therefore it is recommended that any cross-referenced information needs to be summarised and the most pertinent SEN issues may need to be duplicated in the SEN policy.


Once the policy is written make sure it is available to everyone involved in the setting/school.  Staff need to agree to it and  implement it on a daily basis.  It should be made available to parents/carers who should be able to read it and make sense of it.  Settings/schools should be aware that they might need to make the policy available in different formats such as large print, audiotape, Braille or different languages.


The policy will need to be available on request to OFSTED inspectors or other external agencies such as Quality Assurance assessors.


It can be useful to include appendices for sections that change frequently, for example details of training, outside agencies, or staff members, so that they can be amended without the whole policy having to be adjusted.

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Key elements of an SEN policy: guidance and examples


The following guidance is intended to assist early years practitioners who may be involved in developing an SEN policy.  (The framework in Appendix 18 can also be used to assist settings in drafting their a Special Educational Needs Policy and Action Plan). The guidance is grouped under headings which should be used to help construct a policy. Each heading is followed by: 


  • advice about what information needs to be included in the policy

  • a box containing examples of statements of different ways to phrase this information.  Something should be included under all the headings, but you must make the policy relevant to your setting


There is a lot of overlap of information and it is up to the individual setting/school to decide in which section to include information and whether to repeat key statements or not.




  • summarise  the beliefs shared by your staff about children with special educational needs

  • make sure you say you have regard for the SEN Code of Practice (2001) and that you comply with the provisions of the SEN and Disability Act (2001) (‘SENDA 2001’), as outlined in the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) Code of Practice. This states you cannot discriminate against a child with disabilities and need to make reasonable adjustments to make the setting and its activities accessible

  • describe how you promote inclusion in your setting

  • include a statement on children’s entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum


For example:


  • each child is given the opportunity to achieve their personal best and to become a confident learner

  • all children access a full range of activities through which they can develop and learn through play

  • support is given to children with special educational needs so they have full access to the curriculum

  • children with special educational needs are recognised as individuals and their individual needs are met

  • children with special educational needs are included with their peers

  • we aim to promote positive self esteem of children with special educational needs

  • the staff foster communication between staff/parents/carers/other professionals and agencies

  • we recognise that special educational needs are the responsibility of all staff and aim to develop the skills of all

  • we accept and value each other, valuing differences

  • we work in partnership with parents/carers enabling them to play an active role in their child’s education




If a setting/school  is seeking to be truly inclusive and non-discriminatory, children with special educational needs should be welcomed and admitted according to the same criteria as all other children.   It is ‘unlawful’ to treat a child ‘less favourably for a reason related to their disability’ (Disability Discrimination Act (1995)).  Therefore, a child cannot be refused a place at a registered setting/school on the grounds of special educational needs or disability unless there are no reasonable adjustments that could be made to meet their needs and you can justify your decision to refuse admission. 


  • make reference to the Disability Discrimination Act in your admissions policy

  • include a statement about equal opportunities

  • describe consultation arrangements with parents/carers prior to admission, during which you consider a child’s individual needs

  • describe how you settle children in to your setting

  • describe how you can be  flexible in  your arrangements so you can successfully include children with individual needs


For example:


  • we admit all children, including those with special educational needs, from age…

  • parents/carers of children with particular needs should approach the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) for more information and discuss how their child’s needs can be met

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Describe your setting/school and say how children with disabilities can access it.

For example:


  • the building is a three storey house with a lift

  • the building is all on one level

  • the baby room is situated on the ground floor

  • there are four rooms


Roles and responsibilities:


  • describe the responsibilities that all practitioners have in meeting children’s individual needs

  • name the responsible person and describe his/her role

  • name the SENCO,  describe his/her role, and give brief details of his/her responsibilities, training expertise, his/her non-contact time and how information is passed to all staff (see below).




  • liaises with parents/carers

  • liaises with other professionals

  • advises and supports other practitioners in the setting

  • ensures that appropriate IEPs are in place

  • ensures that background information is collected, recorded and updated

  • takes the lead in further assessment of a child’s strengths and weaknesses to guide future planning to meet the child’s needs

  • takes the lead in monitoring and reviewing any action taken to support the child

  • ensures that appropriate records are kept for children at Early Years Action, Early Years Action Plus and for those with a Statement of Special Educational Needs      


SEN Code of Practice, 4:15-16

For example:


  • the whole setting/school has a responsibility for meeting individual needs

  • our setting/school based SENCO is _______

  • the Manager is the ‘responsible person’ for SEN

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Staff need specific knowledge and positive attitudes to include children with special educational needs successfully.  The policy needs to outline a commitment to training and explain how information and expertise is shared in the setting. 


  • list any training courses on SEN attended by staff

  • list any SEN qualifications held by staff

  • state your commitment to training staff and updating their skills

  • describe training attended (you may want to put this in an appendix)

  • describe the induction of new staff with regard to SEN

  • describe location of further information e.g. a folder detailing the role of the SENCO, courses attended, other courses available


For example:


  • the following members of staff have had training on SEN…

  • staff attend training regularly 

  • last year staff attended the following courses…

  • there have been opportunities for professional development  through (in service, local, national courses)


SEN Provision


Identification and assessment:


The SEN Code of Practice 2001 emphasises the importance of the early identification of special educational needs:


  • state how you would identify children with SEN, e.g. through discussion with parents/carers and your usual record keeping, observations and assessments

  • state how you involve parents/carers and keep them informed

  • describe any further assessment you would carry out when concerns are raised about a child

  • describe how you would involve the child in his/her assessment e.g. expressing their likes and dislikes


For example:


  • early identification of difficulties and appropriate intervention is planned and carried out

  • parents/carers are involved and kept informed

  • children who are experiencing difficulty with their learning are identified through discussion with parents/carers, observations, routine health screening and discussion with colleagues

  • we observe the progress that all children make and note any child who seems to be having difficulty with their learning.  this includes children who have difficulty behaving appropriately

  • assessment is play based


Levels of provision:


Describe the levels of provision at whole setting/school arrangements, Early Years Action, Early Years Action Plus and for children with Statements. State that all children with SEN will have an Individual Education Plan and describe how this is written.


For example:


  • we observe the progress that all children make

  • we record progress and share it with parents/carers regularly

  • if a child needs something additional to or different from the level of support given at whole setting/school arrangements, we discuss this with parents/carers and prepare an Individual Education Plan outlining clear targets for that child.  This is called Early Years Action

  • if a child’s needs cannot be met this way we can request further support and advice through Early Years Action Plus (describe the arrangements for provision at this stage).

  • all children with special educational needs will have an Individual Education Plan.

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Monitoring and reviewing:


  • describe how you monitor and review children’s progress

  • say how often you review IEPs and who is involved


For example:


  • monitoring of progress is ongoing

  • regular reviews are carried out every four months/termly

  • we encourage parents/carers to attend all reviews


Record keeping:


  • describe how you record your provision for children with SEN

  • describe who has access to records and how they are stored confidentiality to meet data protection requirements

  • state how records are transferred when children move to a different setting


For example:


  • information is sought from parents/carers on admission

  • IEPs and records of progress and reviews are kept in a locked cupboard

  • the setting follows guidelines on data protection, preserves confidentiality and gives parent/carer access to records

  • the setting keeps records of any additional provision made

  • the setting updates records regularly and parents/carers are asked to contribute

  • records are passed on to the next setting/school with parent/carer permission




Describe what arrangements you make to meet the needs of children with SEN:


  • the role of the key person

  • how children are grouped

  • how you adapt activities

  • if and how you provide individual support

  • how you use your staff to meet children’s needs


For example:


  • the setting groups children by… (e.g. development/age)

  • children with SEN are supported within the group and/or on a withdrawal basis

  • staff are employed to carry out SEN strategies

  • we provide different levels for all activities so all children can achieve

  • we have clear behaviour guidelines in place

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  • describe how you make resources and equipment accessible to all children

  • describe any arrangements for obtaining/using special equipment and resources.  It is not necessary to have specialist equipment, although some staff may need to be inventive in order to make toys accessible to some children

  • say if you have a budget for SEN

  • describe any resources you have that encourage all children to understand the rights of disabled children e.g. books that represent disability as part of diversity.

For example:


We have a wide range of toys in the setting/school to meet different learning needs


  • when required we access specialist equipment or materials from the local toy library

  • we provide materials relating to interests and abilities

  • we have specialist facilities... (e.g. withdrawal room, quiet area)




  • describe how children access the curriculum

  • state that the children have access to a broad and balanced curriculum

  • describe how you consider the needs of children with SEN in your planning

  • describe how you differentiate your curriculum


For example:


  • we differentiate activities to ensure all children have access to the curriculum

  • children with SEN follow the Foundation stage curriculum at an appropriate level

  • children are involved in making choices

  • our planning addresses children’s individual needs

  • we make use of augmentative communication (e.g. Makaton signing, picture symbols)

  • our equipment and materials include positive images of children with special educational needs


Physical access:


  • describe how you make arrangements so that children with physical and sensory difficulties can move around safely and access activities

  • describe any plans for forthcoming alterations/maintenance work on the premises that will improve access for disabled children


For example:


  • our setting has adapted doorways, ramps, and toilets and is all on a single level

  • specialist environments can be used, i.e. soft play facilities, and multi-sensory rooms.  these could be in neighbouring provisions with access arranged and insurance considered

  • furniture is arranged to accommodate children with mobility difficulties. there is access to adjustable height furniture i.e. sand/water trays, or access is made possible by using floor level activities 

  • passageways are kept clear (a health and safety issue)

  • areas have carpets/curtains (to reduce noise levels)

  • an induction loop is installed

  • steps are clearly marked with white/yellow strips

  • the outdoor play area has soft safety paving

  • there are changing facilities

  • there is a separate nappy changing area

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Partnership – Children:


Describe how you involve children in, for example:


  • their own learning

  • setting targets

  • reviews

  • celebrating success, making choices and maintaining self esteem


For example:


  • children are involved in their own learning

  • children are encouraged to celebrate their own success and that of others

  • certificates/stickers are used for achievement

  • children are asked how they would like to be helped

  • children are encouraged to comment on whether they enjoy activities


Partnership – Parents/Carers:


  • describe how you would involve parents/carers in meeting the needs of their child

  • describe how you would exchange information, e.g. verbal, written, formal, informal

  • describe how you would make arrangements to meet parents’/carers’ needs, e.g. need for interpreter, signer, reader


For example:


  • we have full and open consultation with parents/carers

  • parents’/carers’ concerns are recorded and acted upon

  • we value parent/carer expertise

  • parent/carer comments are included in assessment and review

  • we ensure parents/carers are aware of roles and responsibilities of staff e.g. by a photo display

  • we ensure parents/carers are made welcome in the setting/school

  • the setting/school has an ‘open door’ policy, offering informal chats as necessary and formal discussion by appointment

  • information is shared with parents/carers through the use of home- setting/school books and open days.

  • we involve parents/carers in provision e.g. planning, implementation of strategies and targets


External Support Agencies:


The policy should show a commitment to working with other agencies, including seeking consent from parents/carers re their involvement.


  • briefly describe the arrangements in place to work effectively with external support agencies

  • list other agencies/professionals with whom you work


For example:


  • we are committed to effective joint working with external support agencies

  • liaison is ensured between the setting and other agencies using a variety of means including telephone contact, written correspondence.

  • the setting links with agencies appropriate to the child’s individual needs

  • the setting will use advice from other agencies to provide suitable strategies/targets for children

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Other Settings/Schools:


  • describe your transfer arrangements

  • describe any links with other settings/schools


For example:


  • the setting/school will pass records on to the next placement (with parent/carer permission)

  • the setting makes arrangements to support transfer e.g. transferring records, supporting visits, verbal liaison, inviting staff to reviews

  • staff are committed to sharing good practice with other settings/schools




  • describe how you deal with complaints within the setting/school and advise parents/carers who to approach with a complaint

  • show you are aware of the local Parent Partnership Scheme

For example:


  • The SENCO/Officer in Charge/Manager will discuss any complaint with the member of staff involved

  • Every effort is made is to resolve the complaint within the setting

  • Parents/carers are kept informed of the progress of the complaint procedure

  • The Management Committee is informed of the complaint

Monitoring and reviewing the policy:


  • describe who is involved

  • describe how you review the policy

  • state how often you review the policy

  • examine how policy has helped/caused problems in providing appropriate provision for individual children

  • outline any training received within the review period

  • state the next  review date


For example


  • the effectiveness of the policy is monitored by the … SENCO, Management Group

  • the policy will be reviewed annually

  • evidence is kept of satisfactory progress and positive personal development

  • views of parents/carers and their level of involvement is monitored and kept as evidence to support the effectiveness of the policy and identify any shortcomings

  • the review process enables staff to have a shared understanding of the key issues and approaches for special needs

  • all staff are involved in reviewing the policy

  • the policy will be reviewed again on ...

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