Choosing Early Years education…

I wrote previously about J visiting his new Preschool, well he starts officially on Thursday! (Update: it’s now 2019 and I thought I’d update a bit as some advise has changed. J is now a ‘school boy’ and in Reception.)

I thought now might be a good time to write about Early Years and what it all means.

Where to go…

There are so many early years providers now it can get confusing. 

  • Childminders-take babies up to school age, and run from their home. Great for a ‘homely feel’ and smaller group of children. Childminder qualifications vary from level 3 to Early Years Professionals/Teachers. 
  • Day nursery-is a full day and usually all year round setting which splits children by age into different rooms. They usually take babies to when child starts school. 
  • Preschool-are usually sessional but can be full day and often term time only. They take children aged 2-school age. They are usually led by an graduate, Early Years Professional or Early Years Teacher (not all so do check). 
  • School Nursery-is a nursery run by a Primary School. Usually opens for 3-School ages (some take funded 2’s) and term time only. Run by a teacher and assistants.
  • Nanny-this is usually by private arrangements where you employ the Nanny. Advantage is that there is more flexibility of hours.

Which you choose should be based on:

  • Location (can you get there easily? If you’re sick/away could someone else get them there?)
  • Cost (if not funded, are you entitled to tax credit allowance etc)
  • Research (ofsted, website, ask on local forums, some county councils have a list of providers)
  • Visits and your ‘gut feeling’ about the place – visit as many times as you need!
  • Learning style eg: do you like Montessori? Would you like somewhere with a certain ‘ethos’?


  • 2 year funding is for those with low income or circumstances such as disability, adoption etc. It was designed to help bridge the gap between those with possible ‘disadvantages’ and their peers before they start school (note-I do not condone stereotyping. Not all in poverty are not meeting children’s needs, not all disabled are ‘disadvantaged’ because of it). Once funded it stays with you till universal funding. 
  • 3/4year old funding is universal (15hrs) and starts the term after your child turns 3. It then follows through to starting school. 
  • Tax credit support is a way of getting money back from the government towards cost of childcare.
  • 30hr funding (15 universal, plus additional 15) will be for families where both parents work (or a single parent in single parent families). There are terms and conditions so make sure you check with your chosen provider.

More info on funding can be found on Childcare Choices website.

Children with additional needs…

Starting an early years provider can be exciting and scary for everyone (parents included). For a child who lacks the ability to communicate understandably it can be even more scary. For a child with physical difficulties in May be more challenging to navigate the environment My advice is…

  • Ask to speak to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Coordinator (SENDCo) to find out their experience with your child’s conditions/disorders/disabilities.
  • Find out if they hold any quality assurance schemes such as ICAN or ECAT that supports communication. Also, first aid and medical training in the case of your child requiring any medication or emergency support.
  • Are any of the staff Makaton trained? How do they use it?
  • If your child uses PECs then ask if they are trained and whether they already have the resources. If not then you may need to hold back on starting until someone is trained (for us, the speech therapist arranged this).
  • Ask about transition policy. It may be worth extra visits so you can help staff to get to know how your child communicates. Please, never feel you have to rushed through transition process. You and your child need to feel comfortable.
  • Ask your professionals if they can contact the setting to support and advise them before your child starts Incase any adaptions need to be made to the setting.

Individual Education Plans:

This is a set of targets that are specific to your child. These should be linked to your current therapy targets and based on supporting the needs of your child.   

Targets are usually set for 6-8 weeks and then reviewed. You should always be involved in setting targets and helping review them. This is your child and you know their abilities. 

More information on supporting children with additional needs can be found by googling ‘SEN Code of Practice, 2014’. 

I could go on and on but I’ll stop there for now. If you have any questions please feel free to ask 🙂

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