A guide to SEN

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This feature provides valuable information about a range of special educational needs, including tell-tale symptoms and practical advice on how to help and support children in the early years


The early years are a critical time in a child’s development. It is a time when children develop social skills, communication skills and confidence as learners that will support their future achievements. Timely identification and assessment of children with special educational needs (SEN) is crucial – the sooner a problem is identified, the sooner help and support can be provided. Early years practitioners play a vital role in the detection and support of children with SEN.

The role of the SENCO

Every early years setting must have a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) who is responsible for ensuring that the needs of all children with SEN are met. Regulations that came into force on 1 September 2009 now require that all SENCOs must have achieved qualified teacher status.

The day-to-day duties of a SENCO are wide ranging and include:

  • talking to and advising colleagues who have concerns about a child
  • coordinating and managing provision for children with SEN
  • deploying resources
  • attending SEN training courses and disseminating examples of effective practice
  • ensuring that all written records relating to children with SEN are up to date and accurate.

At the Early Years Action stage, the SENCO will work with practitioners and parents to assess a child’s special educational needs and recommend strategies to meet these needs.

If a child is moved on to the next level of support – Early Years Action Plus – the SENCO will coordinate links with professionals from outside the setting, such as health visitors and social workers.

The SENCO is also an important point of contact for parents and carers.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that affects children’s learning and social development. Children with ADHD typically find it hard to concentrate, are overactive and behave impulsively. A child with ADHD may also find it difficult to make and keep friends and have low self-esteem.

How to help a child with ADHD

  • Establish clear rules for behaviour within your setting and share these regularly with the child.
  • Create teaching areas within the setting that are quiet and free from distractions.
  • Ensure that all staff adopt a calm and consistent approach to managing the child’s behaviour.
  • Boost the child’s self-esteem and encourage good behaviour by giving plenty of praise and positive feedback whenever they behave appropriately.
  • Break up longer periods of sitting, for example, snack times and circle times, by giving the child simple tasks to carry out in the setting, such as handing out cups or collecting the register.
  • Make sure that the child is closely supervised at playtimes and encourage other children to include them in their play.
  • Work closely with parents to establish a consistent approach to managing the child’s behaviour within school and at home.
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  1. julie@scholastic
    on 5 February 2010

    Qualifications for SENCOs

    The regulations that came into force on 1 September 2009 requiring SENCOs to be qualified teachers applies to maintained schools only and not private or voluntary providers. Julie Smart, Editor, Nursery Education PLUS