Too Little, Too Late report

girl and practitioner Too little too late

Over recent years, there has been a growing awareness 鈥 among both the public and policymakers 鈥 of concerns about the adequacy of early years funding in England.

At the same time, there has been an increasing focus on SEND provision and funding across the country; however, that focus has primarily been on children of formal school age and above.

In September 2019, the government launched a review into support for children with SEND. However, it is notable that the initial aims of this review included 鈥渆quip[ping] staff in schools and colleges to respond effectively to [families鈥橾 needs,鈥 with little mention of the early years.

Our Too Little, Too Late report aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the key issues around funding for SEND provision in the early years sector, and to highlight the need for greater government support at this early stage of children鈥檚 educational journeys.

Our online survey, conducted between 31 January and 10 February 2022, received 1,331 responses.

Respondents comprised of pre-schools (59%), nurseries (29%), childminders (4%), and a small number of children鈥檚 centres, primary school nursery classes, maintained nursery schools, out-of-hours clubs,reception classes, local authority, area Sencos, baby and toddler groups, and specialist SEND provision (1% each).

Key findings

Of all respondents providing care and education to children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND):

  • 92% have had to fund additional support for children with SEND out of their own pockets, with 53% saying they do so 鈥榬egularly鈥.
  • Of those that have had to fund additional support themselves, 84% said it has had a negative financial impact on their setting.
  • 40% said they don鈥檛 receive funding specifically to support SEND provision.
  • 74% said the number of children at their setting with SEND that has been formally identified has increased over the last two years.
  • 14% expect the number of places for children with SEND they are able to provide to decrease going forward.
  • Within this, not being able to afford the number of staff members needed (84%), insufficient SEND funding (77%) and inadequate overall early years funding (76%) were the most commonly-cited contributing factors.
  • 72% have never declined a place to a child with SEND. Of those that have declined, not having enough staff (74%), not being able to afford to deliver appropriate care (51%) and not feeling able to keep the children safe (43%) were the most commonly-cited factors.
  • 60% said that the Covid-19 pandemic had had a negative impact on their ability to deliver care and education to children with SEND, with around one in six (17%) describing that impact as 'very negative'.

Of those respondents receiving additional funding for SEND provision:

  • 87% said that the SEND funding they receive, along with their early years rate, isn鈥檛 enough to provide the quality of care for children with SEND that they want. Within this, 79% said this was due to both the SEND funding level and the general early years funding rate (8% said it was solely due to the EY funding rate and 13% said it was solely due to insufficient SEND funding).
  • 23% regularly experience delays in receiving SEND funding.


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