A framework for everyone

Julie Jennings of the Early Childhood Forum offers her thoughts on the future of inclusive practice in the EYFS...

‘A process of identifying, understanding and breaking down the barriers to participation and belonging’ is how the ECF defines inclusion. Under this definition, the EYFS is an inclusive framework. It provides a means to show how provision has made a positive difference to all children’s lives in all aspects of learning and development. To do that, practitioners need to know and represent the child in the round, and they must therefore identify a child’s need for additional support as early as possible. For children with the most severe and complex additional support needs, adults and agencies should work together to plan support with everyone who has contact with the child and family. This includes coordinating support through early years consultants and SENCOs, as well as knowing when to call in help from specialist support services.

The current EYFS makes strong connections with Early Support - the national programme which places families with disabled children under five at the heart of decision making about their child. Under proposals included in the green paper Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability, this support would be extended to cover children and young people of school age.

The aim to extend the reach of the Early Support programme fits well with the vision of Support and Aspiration, which sets out an approach from birth to 25 years-old including education, employment, health and social care. However, in extending the reach of Early Support, we mustn’t lose focus on the vital early years experiences which underpin lifelong learning. Proposals in both the current EYFS consultation and Support and Aspiration would be greatly strengthened by more explicit references to the connections between the EYFS and Early Support for all those involved in identifying and meeting needs in the early years.

The Early Childhood Forum (ECF) is a coalition of 60 organisations that promote the wellbeing, learning and development of young children, their families and practitioners. ECF is hosted by the National Children’s Bureau. For further information visit