Issue details

24/00027 - Specialist Nursery Intervention Service Level Agreement Extension

Proposed decision


That the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, approve the  extension of the existing Service Level Agreements for Specialist Nursery Intervention for one year from 1 September 2024 to 31 August 2025.


Reason for the decision


This decision brings forward an element of the Early Years Review, presented to CYPE Cabinet Committee in January 2024, specifically the decision to extend the existing Specialist Nursery Intervention Service Level Agreements for one year.


A proposal to implement a refreshed model of Specialist Nursery Intervention (SNI) is currently out for consultation as part of the Early Years Education in Kent public consultation. The consultation will close on 5 May 2024 and the findings, along with recommendations for a refreshed model of support for early years education in Kent will be presented to Children, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee in July 2024.


The current Specialist Nursery Intervention Service Level Agreements (SLA) expire 31 August 2024. An extension of the existing SLAs for one academic year (from 1 September 2024 to 31 August 2025) is required toensure continuity of support and minimise disruption to children, their families and the settings that support them while any potential change to the model, determined by the outcomes of theagreed following the public consultation, can be implemented for 1 September 2025.


The decision is being brought forward to ensure that special schools currently providing the service have sufficient time to consider and agree the extension.




The Specialist Nursery Intervention focuses on the identification and assessment of young children, aged five years and below, with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND).  The current specialist nursery intervention service is commissioned from 11 special schools across the county through a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that expires 31 August 2024.


Children can access the service through four different pathways. The predominant pathway will see children attending the specialist nursery setting on average for nine hours a week for two terms, whilst also attending their existing mainstream setting. This equates to three, three-hour sessions a week (or average nine hours in total per week). This can be extended if required.  There are three intakes a year. If children are referred and accepted, they will typically have to wait until the start of the next term to attend. 


The proposal outlined in the consultation is that the Specialist Nursery Intervention will continue to work with individual children but will provide support directly to children in their mainstream settings without the need for the child to attend a special school setting, as is (predominantly) the current model. This will support children to develop skills within their mainstream setting and build confidence within that setting to support them. Specialist nursery places will still be available for children to go to who need specialist support for a prolonged time, but the process for agreeing these placements will change and will be determined by a multi-agency team who work with and understand the needs of the child.


Options (other options considered but discarded)


Two further options were considered in relation to the proposal to extend the current SLAs for one academic year.


These were:

·   Do not extend the SLAs

·   Submit the proposal to extend the SLAs in July 2024 alongside the outcomes of the public consultation.


The option to not extend the SLAs was considered and ruled out for the following reasons:

·    negative impact on children and their families of ending the service. 

·   the need to have a service in place as an interim measure while a refreshed model is implemented, supporting continuity of support for children and their families.

·    ending the SLAs a year before a potential new model is implemented would result in loss of staff and the associated skills, knowledge and experience.

·   ending the SLAs would mean that if a refreshed model is agreed a new process would need to be undertaken to identify new providers, who would then need to recruit staff and mobilise the new service – creating a delay in implementation of any refreshed model.


The option to submit the proposal to extend the SLAs in July 2024 alongside the outcomes of the public consultation was considered and ruled out. The two primary reasons for this are:

  • referrals for a new intake of children into the service for term one of 2024-2025 academic year begin end May 2024. Delaying the decision to extend the SLA until July would impede this process creating uncertainty for children, their families and the nurseries themselves.
  • The governing bodies of schools holding the SLA will need sufficient time to consider and agree signing the extension. Headteachers of these schools have told us that the time between when a decision taken in July could be implemented and when the school term ends, does not leave enough time for this process to be completed. 


How the proposed decision supports the Framing Kent's Future - Our Council Strategy 2022-2026


The proposal to implement a refreshed model of Specialist Nursery Intervention will support Framing Kent’s Future Priorities 1 and 4 as outlined below:


  • Priority 1: Levelling Up Kent and our commitment to maintain KCC’s strategic role in supporting schools in Kent to deliver accessible, high quality education provision for all families, specifically: maintain improvement support services for all Kent schools, including maintained schools and academies, to maintain Kent’s high-quality education system.
  • Priority 4: New Models of Care and Support and our commitment to support the most vulnerable children and families in our county, ensuring our social work practice supports manageable caseloads, reflective learning, joined up safeguarding and effective corporate parenting arrangements, specifically by respond to national policy changes on SEND provision, work with SEND families to rapidly improve the service provided to SEND children and work with mainstream schools so more can accept and meet the needs of children with SEND, increasing choice and proximity of school places.


While both above priorities only reference schools directly, it is reasonable to extend the application of these principles to the earliest years of children’s education provided through early years settings and childminders.


These actions will support Securing Kent’s Future by:

·         Supporting Objective 1 in bringing the 2023-2024 budget back into balance through cost avoidance achieved by supporting more children in mainstream schools from the outset of their statutory education and avoiding the use of non-maintained independent special school placements. 

·         Further transforming the operating model of the Council (Objective 4) by making processes less time-consuming and bureaucratic we can free up our resource to focus on working directly with children and the providers that support them. A greater focus on understanding and demonstrating impact will enable more effective decision making about how and where to focus the use of resources.



Decision type: Key

Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Notice of proposed decision first published: 23/04/2024

Decision due: Not before 22nd May 2024 by Cabinet Member for Education and Skills
Reason: To allow 28 day notice period required under Exeuctive Decision regulations

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

Lead director: Christine McInnes

Department: Education & Young People's Services

Contact: Christy Holden, Head of Children's Commissioning Email: or 03000 415356.

Consultation process

This decision was considered at the meeting of the Children’s, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee on 16 May 2024. Following discussion, the recommendations were agreed.



Public Consultation:

The proposal to implement a refreshed model of Specialist Nursery Intervention is currently out for public consultation as part of the Early Years Education in Kent consultation. Early Years Education in Kent – supporting settings to embed inclusive practice | Let’s talk Kent


The proposal to extend the existing SLAs in order to enable the implementation of any agreed new model is not subject to public consultation.


Cabinet Committee:

The proposed decision was considered and endorsed by the Children’s, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee on 16 May 2024


Financial implications: Spend on the Specialist Nursery Intervention was £1,829,409 (2022–2023) and £1,908,074 (2023-2024). It is proposed that a 2% increase is applied for 2024-2025, therefore the cost would increase to £1,946,235. This is funded from the High Needs Block of Dedicated Schools Grant provided by the Department of Education. Spend is reported within the Schools Delegated Budget key service line presentation of the 2024-2025 Medium Term Financial Plan. This is not a direct cost to the General Fund.

Legal implications: The Children and Families Act 2014 and the SEND Code of Practice 2015 describe the role that early years, schools and colleges play in meeting the needs of all children and young people, including those with SEND, whether they have an EHCP or not. The SEND code of practice (section 6.44) outlines the ‘graduated approach’ that all schools/settings should apply when considering how they will meet those needs. This also relates to the SEND Code of Practice section 6.58 – 6.62 which outlines the use of specialists to advise settings and schools on early identification of SEN and effective support and interventions Special Nursery Intervention forms part of the Graduated Approach in Kent and specialist support offer in Kent, thereby supporting the Local Authority in discharging the referenced duties.

Equalities implications: Equalities implications: An Equalities Impact Assessment has been completed as part of the Early Years public consultation. This will be updated following the completion of the public consultation. Data Protection implications: Data protection implications will be considered for the development of any new SLAs that are implemented from September 2025 onwards, pending the outcome of formal public consultation.