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Early Years

Children aged between 0-5 years are said to be in their “early years”. This is an important time for all children because long term development can be affected by the experiences a child has early-on in life. This is especially important for children who have special educational needs and/or a disability (SEND).

It is particularly important in the early years that there is no delay in making any necessary special educational provision. Delay at this stage can give rise to learning difficulty and subsequently to loss of self-esteem, frustration in learning and to behaviour difficulties. Early action to address identified needs is critical to the future progress and improved outcomes that are essential in helping the child to prepare for adult life. (SEND Code of Practice 5.36)

Help with childcare costs

All 3 to 4-year-olds, and some 2-year-olds, can get 15 hours per week (570 hours per year) of free early education or childcare. This starts from the term after the child turns 2 or 3. Some 3 and 4-year-olds can get 30 hours of free childcare per week (1040 hours per year).

Visit the Childcare Choices website to find out about the types of funding, eligibility criteria and how to apply.

What are special educational needs for children under 5?

A child who is under compulsory school age has a special educational need if they have a learning difficulty or disability that is likely to require special educational provision when they reach compulsory school age or they would do, if special educational provision was not made for them. For children under the age of two, special educational provision means educational provision of any kind, including home-based programmes. SEND Code of Practice 2014.

Support for young children with SEND and their parents

Every early years provider should have a named SENCo or INCo (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator) who is responsible for overseeing the inclusive environment and co-ordinating the SEND practice and provision. They will have regard to the SEND Code of Practice and will support staff to meet each child’s needs where possible, building a positive partnership with parents.

Support may also be sought from:

  • Health visiting service – telephone 0300 123 6629.
  • Your child’s early years provider. This could be a nursery, childminder or pre-school.
  • Solent Therapies – includes speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists
  • Portage
  • The vision and hearing team

How early years providers support children with SEND

All early years providers are required to offer an inclusive environment and to understand and respond to individual children’s needs working in partnership with parents and carers.

They will:

  • promote equality of opportunity for disabled children
  • provide inclusive practice
  • remove barriers to learning
  • ensure children with medical conditions get the support they need
  • make reasonable adjustments to include every child.

To find more information on how we support children under 5 with SEND in Portsmouth, scroll down and choose one of the sections below.

Early Learning and Development

Visit this section for more information on the support and services available for Early Years learning and development in Portsmouth.

Early Learning

Help at Home

Find information and services that can help with family life. This includes Early Help support, social care information and home help.

Support at Home

Health and Medical

Find out about Early Years Health services and medical support in the Portsmouth City Local Area.

Health and Medical

Information and Advice

This section of the Local offer explains who can provide you with advice and support, as well as any group activities that might be available.

Advice and Support

Leisure, Sport and Community

Visit this section to find local clubs, groups and activities for SEND children 5 years and under. This includes sporting activities, children's centre activities and more!

Sport, Leisure and Community Activities

Money and Financial help

Find out about the different types of financial help that might be available to you if you have a child under 5. This includes DLA, SEND grants and Early Years funding.

Money and Finances

Early Years Frequently Asked Questions

How can I find the right childcare for my child? This could be at a nursery, childminder or pre-school setting?

Arrange to visit some settings and have a chat to the staff about your child’s individual needs. Every setting has a Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), they have knowledge and experience of supporting children with SEND. Click here to find childcare.

Is there any help to find childcare?

Your health visitor can help you to understand what your child might need before they start at a nursery, childminder or pre-school. Health visiting service – telephone 0300 123 6629.

There is also an Early Years outreach team that can support parents to find the right childcare for their child and signpost to help with childcare costs.


Is there additional funding to support children with SEND in a setting?

Some two-year-olds can get free childcare and education. This includes two-year-olds who are in receipt of disability living allowance, and also those who have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. It also includes families on some income-based benefits, including working families on low incomes. Click here to find out more.

Once your child is taking their free early education funding at a setting the setting may be able to apply for Special Educational Needs and Disability Inclusion Funding (SENDIF).

If your three and four year old is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance their setting will be eligible to receive disability access funding, which is £800 per child per year, to help them make reasonable adjustments to their setting to support your child.

Speak to your childcare provider for more information on how they apply for this funding.

What is the difference between childcare options?

Pre-Schools tend to be open between 8am-4pm term time only. Some open for less hours or some for half-days each week. Pre-Schools are Ofsted registered and inspected regularly.

Nurseries tend to be open between 8am-6pm all year round. Nurseries are Ofsted registered and inspected regularly.

Childminders offer flexible care in their own home for up to 3 children under the age of 5. Some also care for older children before and after school. Childminders are Ofsted registered and work to the same standards and are inspected regularly in the same way as nurseries and pre-schools. Childminders often offer additional services such as earlier care, later care, weekend care and school pickups/drop-offs which can be invaluable to families.

Your choice of childcare depends on the hours you work, your transport options and other commitments you may have such as school-runs for older children or studying. You can place your child with more than one childcarer. Some parents use a combination of a childminder and a pre-school/nursery to suit their requirements.

Is there a specialist nursery provision in the city?

Yes, there are a number of free early education funded places provided by Solent Acadamy Trust at Mary Rose Academy or Cliffdale Primary Academy. Your child does not need an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to attend these nurseries, you need to talk to your health visitor to find out more. The Early Years Panel allocate these places.

Does my child need an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan?

You can find out more here. Have a chat to your child’s health visitor and early years setting. If you feel your child may need an EHCP once they are in school, it is recommended that request is made in the year before they are due to start school.

What do I need to think about when visiting a childcare provider?

You will probably have lots of questions when choosing a new childcare provider – here are a few to get you started:

  • Are the children happy, safe and playing together?
  • Are the adults friendly and joining in with what the children are doing?
  • Are there lots of activities on offer to help children learn and play?
  • Are the premises and resources clean, well-kept and safe for children?
  • Is there a fun outside play area (or will children go to parks and other places regularly)?
  • Are the premises accessible for wheelchair use and do they have resources to support a child with a disability or special educational needs?

My child is due to move to school, what support should they be given?

We have developed a list of  top 10 tips you should try and do in plenty of time to make this transition as easy as possible.

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Contact the Portsmouth Send Local Offer to gain help, get more information or to leave feedback about the website.

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