The EYFS makes it clear that there is a statutory duty to share concerns about a child’s development with parents, so it’s important you are confident in your ability to do this. The relationship you build with parents begins from the moment they first make contact so make sure you are professional and welcoming at all times. The following tips will help you build a strong connection with parents so you can successfully identify and meet a child’s needs.

  1. Gather information when a child starts at your setting

A thorough induction will mean you have vital information which enables you to build a picture about the child’s level of development, in partnership with parents. Asking all parents to bring in their child’s personal health record (Red Book) can be an effective way to find out about the child’s birth, hearing tests, referrals to professionals, and developmental checks. Obviously a parent can choose not to bring in the book, but the majority of parents are happy to do so. Try to ask open ended questions during the induction. For example:

  • What would you like your child to learn here?
  • How do they let you know when they want something?
  • What and who do they like to play with?
  • Do you have any worries about their eating or sleeping?
  • Is there anything that worries them or something they don’t like?
  • How do they react when you ask them to stop doing something?
  • Is there anything you’d like to ask?

The answers to these questions will help you to paint a picture of the child and understand their life before they start at your setting, helping you to meet their needs more effectively. They might also alert you to the fact that there are aspects of the child’s development which might need closer monitoring.

  1. Meet regularly with all parents

Meeting with a parent within a month of their child starting means you have an opportunity to find out how they think their child has settled and to answer any queries they may have. It also means you can start to gently explore any aspects of the child’s development you are concerned about and gauge how the parent feels about this. Meeting at least once a term with every parent is a useful way of keeping the lines of communication open, particularly when parents do not drop off and collect their child from the setting. This short film clip gives a useful overview of how one nursery makes links with parents.

  1. Understand Child Development

Ensure all staff have a good understanding of typical child development. The Every Child a Talker (ECAT) Monitoring Tool is quick and easy to use for every child but remember to complete it from the beginning, as gaps in development can be significant. The charity Contact a Family has a useful  poster which gives an overview of typical child development, this could be particularly helpful for less experienced staff.

  1. Discuss your concerns with colleagues

Generally, I think we have a “gut feeling” when a child’s development causes us concern and usually this feeling is accurate. However, share your concerns with colleagues as they will have useful opinions. Perhaps timetable a meeting every two weeks when you discuss any children causing concern and agree how you will respond as a team.

  1. Gather further information

Once you have identified which aspects of the child’s development are causing concern you can gather further evidence by carrying out specific observations. It can be helpful if different members of staff carry out these observations although they will be coordinated by the child’s key person.

By following these top tips you will have gathered useful evidence to help you decide if a child has a delay in their development which cannot be explained by a lack of opportunity or experience. In next month’s publication, we shall explore how to share these concerns with parents.

About the author


Kathryn is a specialist early years teacher and trainer who has worked with children for nearly 25 years, including 10 years as an Area SENCO. She is a licensed Tutor for ICAN Talk Boost as well as an ELKLAN Speech and Language Trainer. She regularly writes and delivers courses for early years practitioners on all aspects of SEN. You can follow her on Twitter @kathrynstinton, find her on Facebook or visit her website for more information.

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