Memorandum from MENCAP (EY 24)
1.1 Mencap welcomes this timely inquiry
into early years education within the context of policy developments
promoting greater inclusion.
1.2 Mencap supports the concept of inclusive
education, which means that everyone, child or adult should have
life-long access to education appropriate to their needs and potential.
Access requires respect for the individual's way of learning and
requires suitable curricula, methodologies, teaching materials
(including information technologies) and teaching skills.
1.3 Through its 95 offices and 450 Local
Societies Mencap has substantial contact with parents and carers
who are seeking the optimum early years education service for
1.4 Mencap provides a number of early years
services for example Hawthorn Nursery in Leeds and works in partnership
with LEAs to promote effective early identification and assessment
procedures for children with special educational needs.
1.5 Mencap services promote the role of
parents as early educators and also support parents and carers
during assessment and statementing processes. We have welcomed
recent announcements to make Parent Partnership Services a statutory
1.6 As an active member of the Special Educational
Consortium Mencap is working to ensure that provision for children
with SEN is better integrated into the planning process with clear
guidance to all providers on SEN aspects.
1.7 Mencap has welcomed the development
of Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships and has
worked with officials from the DfEE Childcare Unit to develop
the Guidance to these Partnerships in respect of learning disabled
1.8 An an LEA level there is a need to ensure
that all components of the early years service are working in
the same direction towards maximum inclusion. Mencap has some
anecdotal evidence that as special school rolls fall some schools
are offering nursery places to disabled children, often on an
"assessment" basis. It is often then difficult for parents
to believe that a mainstream school would be a more appropriate
setting for their child.
1.9 At a Government level there is a need
for close collaboration between the DfEE and DoH in order to ensure
holistic planning in the early years especially for children with
complex health needs and multiple disabilities.
2. EARLY YEARS
2.1 The early years curriculum for all chidren
needs to value diversity and difference. This emphasis would have
a long-term impact on the self-esteem of learning disabled children.
2.2 Mencap fully supports the government's
commitment to raising standards in early years education but is
concerned that formally defined Early Learning Goals will be inappropriate
for young disabled children especially as we move towards a more
inclusive education system.
2.3 Learning outcomes in the early years
need to be planned and agreed with parents and services need to
offer advice to parents and carers on supporting learning in all
2.4 All early years services need to emphasise
a "can do" approach rather than a pass/fail approach
to curriculum development.
2.5 The early years curriculum will need
to be adapted and modified for some children and this requires
skilled differentiation. Early years teachers may need regular
access to specialist SEN advice and support.
2.6 There is a need to recognise and resolve
the tension between target setting and inclusion in early years
3.1 The way the early years curriculum is
delivered needs to recognise individual differences in learning
3.2 Early years providers need to ensure
that the learning environment is both physically accessible and
also contains positive images of disability.
3.3 If inclusion is to mean taking part
rather than merely being there then learning disabled children
will need learning support that promotes their full participation.
3.4 Some learning disabled children will
need additional resources in order to achieve full participation,
for example an enhanced sensory input.
3.5 There is a need for the integration
of education and therapeutic plans for individual children. This
is especially the case for disabled children who receive education
and care in more than one setting. This may require the input
from a specialist SEN adviser as recommended in paragraph 4.6.
3.6 Teaching staff and learning support
staff need to have regular non-contact time to plan and evaluate
their work together. This needs to include time to liaise and
meet with the therapists working with individual children with
4. STAFF SKILLS
4.1 All learning disabled children should
have direct access to qualified early years teaching staff. Mencap's
recent research (On a Wing and a Prayer) into learning support
and inclusion highlighted a number of instances where children
with severe learning disabilities had virtually no direct contact
with qualified teachers.
4.2 All staff in early years settings need
to have received disability equality training.
4.3 Early years teachers need to have access
to SEN training.
4.4 Early years teachers need training as
well as on-going support in working in partnership with parents
when SEN is being identified. Teachers need guidance on working
with parents who may be experiencing a range of stresses. Of particular
relevance is the need for support in acquiring the skills needed
to share the results of baseline assessments with parents.
4.5 Learning support staff need to be trained
alongside teachers in methodologies that ensure that inclusion
happens for all children.
4.6 Learning support staff need to have
access to a nationally recognised qualification.
4.7 Teachers need to have access to specialist
teachers or advisers who can provide practical and regular support
to ensure effective curriculum differentiation and delivery.
4.8 LEAs need to retain sufficient funds
centrally to allow for the effective use of specialist support
to early years settings. This should include funding to facilitate
the use of expertise within special schools being made available
to mainstream settings.
4.9 Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators
(SENCOs) have an important role to play in early years settings.
It is crucial that all schools develop a whole school model of
inclusion in order that SEN issues are not seen as the sole responsibility
of SENCOs. There would be value in publishing an early years supplement
to the 1997 SENCO Guide in order to support the role and work
of SENCOs in the early years. There is also a need to provide
sufficient non-contact time to allow for liaison with professionals
from health and social services as well as the voluntary sector.
5.1 Mencap supports the Special Educational
Consortium's call for a clear framework to underpin the inspection
of the SEN work of schools. This is especially the case for early
years settings where there is a very wide diversity of providers.
5.2 With the extended remit of OFSTED to
cover all early years settings Mencap is concerned that early
expertise developed by LEA and Social Services staff may be lost.
This would particularly affect follow-up work between inspections.
5.3 Many learning disabled children receive
considerable input from playgroups and similar services. The skills
of locally-based Inspection and Regulation staff will be lost
under the new arrangements. These staff have had an important
role to play in promoting standards in this area of provision.
There may well be merit in reconsidering transitional arrangements
to allow for the deployment of these skills alongside OFSTED personnel.
5.4 With a plethora of early years initiatives
there is an urgent need to evaluate the impact of these developments
on children with SEN. The DfEE have commissioned research into
the coverage of SEN issues in Early Years Development and Childcare
Partnership Plans and Sure Start bids. There is however a need
to check that the planned developments do indeed deliver high
quality and inclusive provision for all children, including children
Department of Education and Employment 1997
The SENCO Guide.
Mencap 1999. On a Wing and a Prayer; inclusion
and children with severe learning difficulties.