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Early years


Providing children with good-quality education and care in their earliest years can help them succeed at school and later in life. This contributes to creating a society where opportunities are equal regardless of background.

Children do not have to attend any "education setting" until the term following their fifth birthday. Many children attend school earlier but it is the parents who will decide whether early education, in whatever setting, is right for their child.

Inclusion Team

The Inclusion Team support settings (playgroups, day nurseries, childminders etc) in developing high quality inclusive practice and in meeting identified children's needs. Each setting has a linked named Early Years Inclusion Facilitator. The team provide a range of services to settings including:  

  • support in identifying children who may be at risk of delay, putting interventions in place and in reviewing progress  
  • a range of training opportunities which will support staff in having the skills and knowledge required to include young children with SEND
  • access to seating, standing and play equipment
  • guidance in following SEND processes, ie applying for an EHC plan, contributing to a SEND Team Around the Child (TAC)

Free childcare


Under the Government's early years programme all three and four year olds are entitled to free part time education from the term following their third birthday. A part time place is up to 15 hours a week for 38 weeks per year.

Although parents may choose where to send their children, free places for three and four year olds are only available in registered settings.

You can now find good quality education for three and four year olds in many different places and lists are available from the search of all the local childcare providers that meet the standards set for good quality education.

These providers have satisfied a registered nursery inspector appointed by Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education) that the education they offer will enable children to work towards the "Early Learning Goals" (part of the "Foundation Stage").

Many children will achieve the "Early Learning Goals" by the end of the Foundation Stage. The end of the Foundation Stage is at the end of the reception year in a primary school.


Your two year old could also be eligible for free childcare (up to 570 hours per year) if any of the following apply:

  1. 1. You have a household income of no more than £16,190 and receive one or more of the following:
  • Income support
  • Income based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income related Employment Support Allowance
  • Support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Tax Credit
  1. 2. Your child receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or has a current statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education, Health and Care Plan (irrespective of income).
  2. 3. Your child is in the care of the Local Authority or has left care through special guardianship, or an adoption or residence order (irrespective of income).
  3. If you think you might be eligible, apply online at:

Concerned about your child's development


Many parents see their child meet the expected milestones with no cause for concern.

However, some parents may become aware when those milestones have not been reached and there may be a need to seek further advice or help.

If your child is experiencing difficulties with walking, talking, toilet training, weight gain, behaviour or any aspect of their learning you can contact the following services for advice and support.

If you are struggling at home with any aspect of childcare, a visit to your local children’s centre  might be helpful.

For health needs

In the first instance contact your GP or health visitor.

If they feel it is necessary, they will refer on to the Hillingdon Community Paediatric Team who can access a wide range of services including:

For learning needs

If your child is in an early years setting contact your setting’s SENCO. SENCOs are there to support your child and to identify if your child needs any additional support or adaptations to the environment or learning activities.  Make sure the SENCO knows about your child’s special educational needs. If the SENCO in the setting needs more support, they will contact the Inclusion Team to support them.

All early years settings must support children with SEND. 

In the event that your child has more complex SEN, please contact your child's early years setting for more information. 

If your child is not in a setting, and you would like them to attend one, see the following list:

Your local Children’s Centre may also offer drop-in sessions and you can get advice from there about what to do next.

Following an SEN diagnosis

Finding out that your child has a special educational need or disability can be a confusing and emotional time for parents. While some may receive a specific diagnosis, others may be told their child has an additional need or global developmental delay. In some cases you may never receive a specific diagnosis at all.

As well as dealing with your own emotions and concerns for the future, you may also need to offer support and advice to other family members such as partners, children and grandparents. You will come into contact with a number of different professionals during this time, and at some stage will want to find out more about your child's difficulties.

One of the biggest challenges is coming to terms with the fact your child's future will be different from the way you imagined it. Getting in touch with national and local organisations, support groups and other families can help you to deal with a diagnosis, and can be a valuable source of support and advice. It is also important to remember that, with time, your emotions will become easier to manage – many parents report that after a diagnosis they discovered qualities of strength, determination and positivity that they didn't even know they had.

You may want to speak to other parents and carers who understand how you are feeling.  Hillingdon has a strong and committed Parent and Carers Forum that aim to support you, your family and your child with SEND.

Further information

Useful resources

The NHS interactive guide to child development from birth to five years old, includes videos and advice to help parents along the way.

Last reviewed: 25/09/2017

Useful links


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