Early Years Education and Childcare

Nursery children playing with teacher in the classroom

Early years care and education enable children to build on their early experiences and the skills they have developed at home There are a wide range of childcare providers across Cambridgeshire. All childcare providers will endeavour to support children with a range of needs.  

To find out more about early years care and education you can watch our short video: 

Cambridgeshire Early Years Home Learning Video

How can I find a childcare place?

Full details of local registered early years and childcare providers can be found by using the search bar above. The Families Information Service can support you in finding a childcare place for your child and advise you on funding available to you. They can be contacted on 0345 045 1360 or by emailing fis@cambridgeshire.gov.uk 

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The Early Years Foundation Stage is a national framework for learning, development and care for children from birth to 5 years old. Registered childcare and early years providers follow the EYFS and give you regular feedback about your child and tell you if they have any concerns about their learning and development. You will be involved in discussions about your child’s needs, the extra support put in place and reviews of their progress. 

Supporting children with special educational needs

All childcare settings can support a child with special educational needs and /or disabilities. The Equality Act 2010 requires providers to make reasonable adjustments to support children with special educational needs and/or disabilities to access their service. Reasonable adjustments are changes that organisations and people providing services or public functions must make for if a disability puts a person at a disadvantage compared with others who are not disabled. Cambridgeshire County Council Early Years and Childcare Service will support providers to understand what constitutes a reasonable adjustment and how this may apply in their setting. It is up to the provider to determine what constitutes a reasonable adjustment to their provision. There are links in the side bar that may support you in further understanding reasonable adjustments.  


Under the Child Care Act 2006 the County Council has a duty to: 

  • ensure sufficient and suitable childcare places are provided to enable parents to work or to undertake education or training which could lead to employment; and 

  • to secure free childcare and early learning provision for all 3- and 4-year-olds and 2-year-olds who meet nationally set eligibility criteria, for 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. 

This duty covers the provision of childcare for children and young people with SEND. 


Your child's nursery, pre-school or childminder might ask the local authority for help and advice. Our Early Years Advisers and Early Years SEND Advisers work closely with early years settings, advising on identifying and meeting additional needs. If your child needs support from other professionals, their nursery, pre-school, childminder or another professional can complete an Early Help Assessment (EHA) with you to identify the help you need. 

How the Local Authority supports Early Years Settings to meet the needs of children with Special Educational Needs/Disabilities

In line with the Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework, Early Years Providers must identify a named Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator.  

3.68 Providers must have arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities. Maintained schools, maintained nursery schools and all providers who are funded by the local authority to deliver early education places must have regard to the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. Maintained schools and maintained nursery schools must identify a member of staff to act as Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) and other providers (in group provision) are expected to identify a SENCO. Childminders are encouraged to identify a person to act as a SENCO and childminders who are registered with a childminder agency or who are part of a network may wish to share the role between them. 


To support and equip settings to meet low level and emerging needs within the setting the Local Authority offers the following support: 

  • Resource bank (under development, available Spring 2023) – a resource bank of resources to support sensory needs/speech and language needs supported by either webinars or information sheets explaining how to use the resource  

  • SENCO network sessions – 1 hour session termly/half termly for SENCos to network and discuss ideas facilitated by Early Years SEND advisers 

  • SEND surgeries – settings can access half hour telephone surgeries from advisers for advice on how to support different needs in their setting.  

  • Telephone support where required from specialist Early Years SEND advisers 

  • Ordinarily Available Provision website (Under development, available Spring 2023) - The term ‘ordinarily available provision’ comes from the SEN Code of Practice and refers to the support that mainstream schools or settings should be able to provide for a child or young person through their agreed funding and resource arrangements. Our online web resource supports providers to understand what provision they are making should be ordinarily available and what provision is in addition to this.  

In addition, for children on the Early Support Pathway, the Local Authority offers Special Educational Needs Inclusion Funding. Whilst most children will have their needs met through individualised and targeted support which scaffolds their learning, some children may need additional support to enable learning and to keep them safe. This funding is to enable children in receipt of 2-, 3- or 4-year-old funding to access their funded hours. Funding is available at three differing rates: 

  • Rate 1 Children who need support for about 50% of their funded hours 

Children who receive funding at this rate need some additional group work or one to one activities to help them learn and develop. 

  • Rate 2 – Children who need support for about 75% of their funded hours 

Children who receive funding at this rate need additional adult support to enable learning and may need some adult support to keep themselves and others safe in the setting. 

  • Rate 3 – Children who need support for all their funded hours 

Children who receive funding at this rate need significant adult support to keep themselves and others safe in the setting and to enable them to participate in learning.  

If your child requires specialist equipment recommended by an Occupational Therapist there is a process schools and Early Years settings can undertake to obtain the required equipment. Please see the download below.  


Early Years setting Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCos) are not required to attend training to carry out their role, however in Cambridgeshire we provide specialist training to enable SENCos to carry out their role to the highest possible standards. In this training we cover a range of topics such as: 

  • Understanding their duties and responsibilities regarding to legislation such as the Equalities Act 2010 and the SEND Code of Practice 0-19 

  • Working in partnership with parents 

  • Identifying and responding to Special Educational Needs (Assess, plan, do, review) 

  • Strategies to support specific needs 

  • When and how to seek additional support 

  • Processes and procedures for the local area 


SENCos who wish to further their knowledge and understanding can access the Level 3 Early Years SENCo award, more information can be found at Early Years SENCO - Level 3 | Best Practice Network. This does not replace Local Authority SENCo training, but should be completed in addition to this to ensure a thorough knowledge of local policies and procedures.  

SENDCos also have access to a Knowledge Hub and SEND Toolkit to further support them in their practice.  

Help with childcare costs

All 3- and 4-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of funded childcare for 38 weeks a year and some families can get up to 30 hours of funded childcare a week for 38 weeks of the year.  

Some 2-year-olds with special educational needs and disabilities or whose families are on a low income are eligible for free places. 

Working families can claim tax-free childcare to support childcare costs, with up to £2000 a year for each child to help with the costs of childcare. If you child gets Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Armed Forces Independence Payment you may be eligible for a higher rate of tax-free childcare of up to £4000 a year. 


You can find more information in our childcare pages (see link at side) or by watching our videos explaining the funded childcare offer. 

Starting childcare – helping your child to settle in

Children make the best start in a nursery, pre-school or with a childminder when arrangements and plans are made in advance so that they are familiar with their new environment and staff are prepared to receive them. Parents and carers play a vital role in this process. It can be hard to hide your worries at this time but if you are positive about what is going to happen next your child will feel secure and this will help them settle. You should be offered shorter visits to the setting to allow your child to get used to the environment and to meet the practitioners who will be caring for them. Consider whether it would help your child to take a familiar object from home or a special toy or comforter to help them settle. It may help your child to visit the setting and to make the journey several times before starting to attend to help them get used to the route.  

If you feel your child is not settling in at an early years setting or you have concerns about their progress, talk in the first instance to your child's key person or the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) at your child's settingYou can discuss your worries with any of the people working with you. 

You can also contact Cambridgeshire's Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS), formerly the Parent Partnership Service who can help with information, advice and support if you are concerned about your child and the support they need. 

If your child has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan

Parents will always be involved in discussions with an SEN Casework Officer from the Statutory Assessment and Resources Team (START) about choices in schooling and early childhood care and education. It will be important that your child's start at school, nursery or setting is planned with you. There will be opportunities to visit the school, nursery or setting and discuss your child's needs with the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo).     


Related Pages

  1. Early Support
  2. Targeted Support

External Links

  1. Childcare Choices - 30 hours free Childcare
  2. Council For Disabled Children - Disabled Children and the Equality Act 2010 for Early Years
  3. GOV.UK - SEND: guide for early years settings


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