Memorandum from the National Early Years
Network (EY 79)
I gave oral evidence as one of three witnesses
for The National Early Years Network to the House of Commons Education
and Employment Sub Committee in relation to its Early Years Enquiry
on Wednesday 24 May. At this hearing we were advised that any
additional evidence should be submitted in writing for consideration.
I am now writing to draw attention to the apparent
omission of issues relating to children with disablities and those
with other forms of SEN. Although I gather it was not the intention
of the committee to look at these issues specifically in the view
of the National Early Years Network it would be anomalous if they
were to be neglected all together.
The DfEE's recent Programme for Action/SEN Bill
and the 2000-2001 Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership's
Planning Guidance both emphasise the Government's commitment to
the inclusion of disabled children and those with other forms
of SEN and Partnerships and LEA's are currently advised to demonstrate
their commitment in policy and practice.
The 1989 Children Act rightly locates the concerns
of such children within the concerns of the wider child population
and the widely quoted Warnock estimate of 20 per cent is likely
to be conservative as many children have transient Special Educational
needs that do not enter the statistics. In short we are referring
to a significant section of the child population within the remit
of the Sub Committee.
In addition to the above mentioned legislation,
the Disability Discrimination Act looks set to apply to educational
provision which means that greater numbers of children with SEN
and disabilities are likely to be entering mainstream early years
settings in the coming years. I would like to take this opportunity
to voice the following concerns on their behalf.
There is currently no universal funding system
for learning support assistants for children within early years
settings. Provision of funds is patchy and depends on local policy,
planning and infrastructure. In order to successfully promote
inclusion at this crucial stage of children's development we desperately
need an effective standardised funding mechanism in order to provide
crucial learning support for individual placements.
I would like to draw to the Sub Committee's
attention to The Special Needs Referral Scheme funded jointly
by the Welsh Office and local Social services departments which
is widely regarded as successful and non stigmatising example
of how the necessary support can be achieved. It employs scheme
find suitable places;
arrange and pay for helpers;
provide equipment; and
support parents and staff.
Without the necessary infrastructure and support,
placements are likely to be refused or fail on the grounds that
staff cannot meet individual children's needs and comply with
health and safety requirements. This situation is likely to worsen
if the child/adult ratios recommended in the Children Act Guidance
In the view of the National Early Years Network
all staff should have access to SEN training and a basic level
of underpinning skills, knowledge and understanding should be
a mandatory requirement for training across the relevant sectors.
This is not the case at present. Additional training should also
be provided to support inclusion especially on Disability Awareness
and Equality issues.
We need a cohesive strategy to ensure that SEN
policy is integrated interdepartmentally and throughout new initiatives
at local and national level.
The regulatory framework should also reflect
concerns about equality of access and equality of opportunity
for children with SEN.
The interface between the Foundation Stage and
Key Stage One needs attention so that children are not just faced
with another set of hurdles having "failed" to reach
the Early Learning Goals.
Above all the differential costs of caring for
and educating disabled children must be fully recognised.
From a Children's Rights perspective it is crucial
that we ensure the following:
Article SixUN Convention on the Rights
of the Child
Children have a right to life and to the best possible
chance to develop fully.
Article 23UN Convention on the Rights of
Disabled children must be helped to be as independent
as possible and to take a full and active part in everyday life.
I trust that the above will be forwarded to
Mary Dickins, Training
National Early Years Network