The development of all children’s speech, language and communication during their early years is a priority for government. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the prime areas of learning that early years providers must follow and this includes a focus on communication and language. The EYFS requires providers to have arrangements in place to support children with special educational needs or disabilities. In England the Early Years Educator Criteria and the Teachers’ Standards (Early Years) also require the staff in question to deliver the EYFS.
The Teachers’ Standards (Early Years) requires early years teachers to demonstrate a clear understanding of the needs of all children, including those with speech, language and communication or other special educational needs or disabilities. It requires teachers to be able to use and evaluate distinctive approaches to engage and support children and to have the skills and awareness to know when a child is in need of additional support. The Department for Education provides grants to a number of expert organisations so that they can support the early years workforce to meet the needs of children with speech, language and communication difficulties. This includes providing access to best practice, tools and training. A range of organisations and bodies also provide advice and support to their members on this issue.
Where Ofsted inspectors have identified areas of improvement it is the responsibility of the early years setting to put an improvement plan in place. Local authorities are required by legislation to secure information, advice and training for early years providers judged less than good on their last Ofsted inspection report, including to help the provider meet the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Under section 22 of the Children and Families Act 2014 local authorities in England are required to identify all the children and young people in their area (i) who have or may have special educational needs, and (ii) who have a disability. Section 23 places a duty on clinical commissioning groups, NHS trusts or NHS foundation trusts if they are of the opinion that a child under compulsory school age has (or probably has) special educational needs or a disability, to tell the local authority and child’s parents.
Local authorities in England must ensure that all providers they fund are aware of the requirement on them to have regard to the special educational needs and disability - code of practice and to meet the needs of children with special educational needs or disabilities.