The current move towards full educational inclusion can sometimes seem high on exhortation and low on practical guidance. Last year the Lancashire Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership set about addressing this problem. It established a seven-month project to produce written advice and information on including children with special education needs for all settings receiving nursery education grant.
The project and the 135-page handbook are underpinned by the principle that the best results come from people working together and brings together the experience of professionals from LEA special nursery provision and early years education training.
The work involved considerable reading, talking and listening to people working in early years settings, and was tested in progress on a cross-section of providers of the Foundation Stage. Most LEAs already provide guidance on the needs of children with formal statements. But the focus of this new handbook is different. It looks at building a welcoming inclusive ethos and gives practical examples of how to do this.
It also gives guidance on working with parents from the very earliest days of a child's involvement - whether a child comes to you with already identified special educational needs or if you and your colleagues are the first people to have any concerns about a child's development.
The handbook promotes fundamental values ad principles alongside step-by-step, nitty-gritty ideas about what you early years special education staff can actually do.
There are sections on early identification, getting help from other people, the Code of Practice, and writing individual education plans. There is also a highly practical section on planning the curriculum, full of ideas from real classroom experience.
Acknowledging the time pressures that early years staff face both in school and pre-school settings, there is a framework (available as a CD or printed) for writing or revising an SEN policy.
The presentation is clear and informal, with sample forms and illustrated the colour-coded text.
The sections are indexed with sub-headings that reflect questions practitioners asked - from "What do we need to consider when writing individual education plan targets?" and "What should we consider in relation to health and safety issues and insurance cover?" to "How do we approach parents if we have a concern?" and "How do we take account of individual needs in our planning?"
Including Children with SEN in the Early Years can be ordered from the Lancashire EYDCP Resource Centre.Tel: 01772 452022. pound;20.
A 26-page booklet entitled Services for Children with Special Educational Needs is available free.
Anne Conroy is early years teacher adviser for Lancashire LEA.
Philip Douch is a training and quality assurance manager for the Pre-school Learning Alliance and a freelance trainer