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SEN shake-up overlooks under-fives

The Pre-school Learning Alliance is pleased that the Government's special educational needs (SEN) green paper proposes changes to the statutory assessment process ("SEN shake-up will see every child assessed before age three", 11 March). However, we are concerned at the lack of detail regarding the proposal to remove the first two stages of the "graduated response" for children under five in the SEN code of practice and replace them with a single SEN system.

Although the coalition Government deems such a move necessary to reduce the number of children in school identified with SEN, we fear that such a system could have negative implications for young children. We fear it will not reduce the number of children with SEN in the early years. Instead it will leave many children unsupported and unidentified.

The first stage of the graduated response is a valuable time to monitor young children whose development or behaviour is giving cause for concern. We believe that it is essential for there to be two separate stages because the early years is vastly different from the primary sector.

The current system is generally well managed by early-years practitioners, who tell us that they identify the growing number of young children with problems and make appropriate referrals to services such as clinical psychology and speech and language therapy. But as these services are rapidly disappearing, many such children are not receiving the expertise they need before starting school.

We fear the Government's proposed changes could make children more vulnerable and the system more complicated than at present.

Michael Freeston, Director of quality improvement, Pre-school Learning Alliance.

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