Education for 0 to 5 year olds with SEND

A young child blows a dandelion.

Early years education usually begins at around two to two and a half years old. Find out about childcare options for under twos here.

Most young children with additional needs attend mainstream nurseries and playgroups. There is extra support available to help children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) access the same opportunities as other children and prepare for school.

SEN support in mainstream nurseries

All pre-school settings must have a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) and a special educational needs policy. They will use what’s known as “the graduated approach” to offer support to your child.

In addition to this, the SENCO at your child’s pre-school setting can access specialist support from the Brighton and Hove Inclusion Support Service (BHISS).

The BHISS-Early Years team works with your child’s nursery or playgroup to help them support your child. They also offer support to families directly. This team replaces the old PRESENS outreach team. 

Find a nursery or other pre-school setting using the Family Information Service directory. 

For some tips on how to choose the right nursery for your child, see Amaze’s website.

Early years funding

3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 570 hours per year of free education. If both parents are working they may be entitled to up to twice this amount.

Some children are entitled to free early education from age 2, for example if they receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or if a parent is on certain benefits.

If you do not receive Tax Credits or Universal Credit you may be able to claim back 20% of childcare costs for a child with SEND, up to a maximum of £4,000 per year through the Tax Free Childcare scheme.

Find out more about childcare funding options here or use Turn2Us's calculators to check out what you may be entitled to.

In addition to this, nurseries and other pre-school settings may also be able to apply for additional funding to enable them to appropriately support your child. This might be used to make adaptations to the nursery, pay for special equipment, or cover extra staffing costs.

Find out more about early years funding options for children with SEND.

Specialist settings

Some children with more complex needs may be better suited to a specialist nursery or pre-school setting.

Jeanne Saunders Centre (PRESENS)

The Jeanne Saunders Centre in Hove is a specialist nursery for children with SEND in their final year before starting school. It is part of the Pre-School Special Educational Needs Service (PRESENS). The nursery offers interventions, assessment, support and advice. 

Other specialist early years options

PRESENS also runs Easthill Park House in Portslade, and under 5s with very complex needs sometimes attend Downs View or Hillside special schools.

Chailey Heritage School is a charitable school that offers a nursery class for children with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, particularly children with complex needs.

Ingfield Manor School at Billingshurts in West Sussex is a special school run by the charity Scope which has a pre-school for children with physical disabilities and associated learning problems. They offer an assessment service and conductive education, covering the early years curriculum.

View a list of independent education providers approved by the Secretary of State.

Most providers on this list are located outside of Brighton & Hove and can be named on an education, health and care plan (EHC plan) if a pre-school that meets your child’s needs cannot be found locally. 

Please note, we are not endorsing or recommending any of these providers.

You may also be interested in: