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A photo of a child building coloured brick into a tower.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.

Support for young children with SEND and their parents

Support can take a range of forms including:
Specialist support from educational psychologists, speech and language therapists or specialist teachers such as teachers of the deaf.

These specialists may visit families at home to provide advice and information. Training for parents in using early language programmes to promote play, communication and language development.

Home-based programmes such as Portage, which offer a carefully structured system to help parents support their child’s early learning and development. For example material visit the National Portage Association website.

How Early Years providers support SEND

All early years providers have duties under the Equality Act 2010 and the Early Years Foundation Stage, and must have regard for the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice to:

  • 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 including aids to prevent disadvantage.

Thought must be given in advance to what disabled children might require and what adjustments might need to be made to prevent disadvantage.

Early Learning and Development 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 £828 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.

Is there a specialist nursery provision in the city?

Yes, there are a number of free early education funded places provided by Solent Academy 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. In Portsmouth the assessment for an EHCP is usually considered the year before they are due to start school.

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

Before a child moves into another setting or school, their support should include lots of activities that plan and prepare them for the move – this is often called transition planning.

If your child has an education Health and Care Plan, this should also include information on the things that will be put in place to help them move from their old setting to the new one.

The types of support activities that may be used are:

  • Extra visits for your child to their new education setting.
  • Visual supports – such as photographs, books or even short video clips of their new setting.
  • Lots of information sharing between the old setting, the new setting and parents and carers.

Each transition plan of support will be different and developed around the individual child’s needs.

Related Documents and Links

Visit the Local Offer Information Hub to search for all Early Years services and information

Relevant links

We have developed a Parenting Pathway for children within the Early Years Foundation Stage(EYFS) with SEND. Click here to view the EYFS 0-5 SEND Pathway

National Links

National Portage Association



Portsmouth SENDIASS

An impartial service providing information, advice and guidance on SEND.

Portsmouth SENDIASS

Portsmouth SEN Team

The Special Educational Needs Team at portsmouth city council are responsible for EHCPs.

Portsmouth SEN Team info
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Portsmouth Parent Voice

Helping parent carers of young people aged 0-25 with additional needs and disabilities to shape and improve local services

Portsmouth Parent Voice

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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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