Extra help for pre-school children

This page goes through the graduated approach, the referral process to the Early Years Panel and the possible outcomes, and looks at some of the funding available.

If you have followed the graduated approach and you still feel a child needs extra help with their development, the Early Years Panel will look at your application and decide which service is best placed to meet your needs.

Funding for early years providers

Some of the funding providers can help families apply for:

Universal funding

Targeted funding

SEND funding

Funding for schools

Graduated approach to SEND in the Early Years

  • Caseload children
  • Area SENCO
  • SEND drop-ins
  • Duty Desk/advice line
  • Self-serve website, including the Graduated Response document

Self-serve website (including Graduated approach document)

The Graduated approach booklet is a document for you to refer to within settings. It is broken down into the areas of need, with each area of need describing quality first teaching as well as graduated support and strategies for the children with whom you have concerns around. 

We are also developing the resources and support we are offering on the webpages, that we can direct providers to.

Duty Desk/advice line

The Duty Desk is now available daily 9am-12pm (0116 305 7136). The phone will be answered by the admin team, or an Area SENCO. They can support with unnamed SEND advice. 

SEND drop-ins

These sessions give providers the chance to discuss children who may be presenting with some difficulties within the setting. It is on an unnamed basis, but with a range of professionals involved. Please see our Eventbrite page for more information, including dates of upcoming drop-ins.


Each Early Years setting will have a named Area SENCO who will make contact with the setting throughout the year. When the Area SENCO comes in to the setting, they are there to offer unnamed advice and support.


The Early Years SEND Inclusion team support children who have significant identified or emerging SEND. We would expect children being referred to us to be working at half their chronological age or less in two or more areas of development.

For the majority of children that come to panel, we would be expecting to see evidence of the above to ensure the children that get agreed to be taken on at panel, are children needing specialist advice/teachers. The exception for not needing this evidence being very young children, children not in a setting, or children with a clear high level of specialist need.

If a child doesn't meet threshold, or there isn’t enough evidence of the graduated approach being followed, then the child may not be allocated an advisor/practitioner from panel. With this outcome, we give providers a reason as to why no allocation has been made and contact details for if they wish to discuss it further.

Children could be allocated a specialist advisor straight from panel if need is apparent and specialist support is required.

Children under the age of three are allocated to Portage and will receive support both at home and in the Early Years setting if attended. Children over the age of three will be supported through their Early Years setting. Children who do not attend a setting will receive some support at home. Inclusion practitioners are the exception to this and only work in setting/school following an initial home contact.

The panel meets weekly during the academic year to discuss referrals received. The outcomes, as mentioned above and included in correspondence with the referrer, may include:

  • Allocation of an advisor/practitioner to support the child in the setting and/or the home
  • No allocation - lack of evidence of the provider following the graduated approach
  • No allocation - refer/follow advice from other services, such as speech and language
  • Referral to other services, such as Leicestershire Educational Psychology Service

The child can be referred by their:

  • public health nurse (health visitor)
  • parents
  • providers
  • paediatrician
  • other professionals working with the child

Early Years SEND panel referral form

If you need to make a referral to the Early Years SEND panel for support from the service use the form below:


Before you begin the referral form

You cannot save progress, so to avoid being timed out please have the following information ready:

  • Child’s information, including date of birth and parental details including address, telephone number, email address
  • Setting details
  • Names and contact details of any other services who have/had involvement with the child
  • Details of the Early Years Provider
  • Information on the areas of need and electronic copies of any documents you wish to submit to support the referral
  • Electronic copies of any assessments (small steps etc.)
  • Parental permission to complete the referral

Make an Early Years referral online

When you've submitted the information, a PDF version of the referral can also be downloaded for your own records.

If you can't access the link above, please contact EYSENISadmin@leics.gov.uk or phone 0116 305 7136, who'll provide support for you to access the link or send you a paper copy to complete.

Further reading