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Portage and Portage Plus


Portsmouth Portage service provides two programmes: Portage and Portage Plus.

Portage is an educational home-visiting service for pre-school children who have significant delays, special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). A Portage Home Visitor works in partnership with parents and carers in their own home. The aim of the service is to empower parents and carers in developing their child’s play and learning, development and promote positive outcomes.

Portage Plus is for pre-school children who have significant needs with interaction and communication, are on the Autism Pathway, or have neurodevelopmental delay. One hour home sessions are made across 12 visits with regular liaison and support to the child’s early years setting. Strategies used include PECS (Picture Exchange Communication), Intensive Interaction, TEACCH, Makaton, Identiplay, Visual rewards systems etc.

Portage incorporates play and therapy programmes i.e. Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy or Speech Therapy where appropriate, working in partnership with relevant professionals from health, education, social care and voluntary organisations to ensure shared goals and outcomes.

Service ethos

Portsmouth Portage service is registered with the National Portage Association (NPA) and adheres to the NPA Code of Practice and Ethical Guidelines (2006). The service is extremely proud to have a 5-star award from the NPA. Portsmouth Portage Service follows the guidance available from the NPA Code of Practice and Ethical Guidelines (2006) and the principles of the NPA are embedded within everyday practice, so that:

‘The keystone of all Portage practice is partnership, placing children and families at the centre and working with parents as the senior partner and lead educators.

Partnership also extends to multi-agency working with all involved with the child and family.

Portage supports parents and practitioners to use a small steps approach to learning, breaking down long term goals into achievable targets that are practical, immediate and relevant for the whole child, family and community.

  • Through playing and learning together, families and children are supported to generalise skills, participating and working towards full inclusion in their community.
  • Working in a genuine partnership with families, Portage practice is supporting & enabling for parents, offering practical strategies, signposting and joint problem solving.
  • Portage aims to empower parents to make informed choices about their child’s development whilst supporting them to feel confident in their own abilities.
  • The Portage can do approach celebrates diversity, emphasising that all children are able to learn.
  • By building on abilities and strengths rather than focusing on difficulties, Portage supports families in looking forward, with small step targets planned to celebrate success. Parents often comment that they value Portage most for being positive.’

(NPA Principles, 2019)

Aims and objectives of the service

Portage and Portage Plus are for children before they start school.  The service aims to:

  • support and empower parents/carers in promoting their child’s learning and development through structured teaching
  • support the successful transition from home to an early year’s provider
  • provide educational advice to the local authority as part of the EHCP (Educational, Health and Care pathway)
  • provide Early Years settings and other professionals with advice, and support


The service operates an open referral system after discussion and agreement with parents/carers direct by any involved professional. Parents or carers are able to self-refer to Portage and Portage Plus.  The referral criteria is:


  • The child lives in Portsmouth
  • They are 0-4 years old
  • The child has significant difficulties in two or more areas of development (this would usually be of around half-life age) regardless of diagnosis
  • If the child is not accessing any other specialist educational provision
  • Parent(s)/Carer(s) understand the commitment to being available regularly

Portage Plus

  • The child lives in Portsmouth
  • The child is 0-4 years old
  • The child has significant difficulties in social, communication and interaction or has a diagnosis relating to these needs
  • Needs are impacting on day-to-day life at home and significantly on the child’s ability to settle, play and learn at nursery, even after the usual range of interventions have been tried
  • Parent(s)/Carer(s) agree to use Portage Plus approaches and to home visiting

After Referral to Starting Portage

There is always a high demand for Portage with limited capacity therefore there will be a wait to start full involvement. The follow considerations to commencement are:

  • On a ‘first come, first served’ basis from referral month and time on the waiting list
  • Provision or support the child/family are already receiving
  • The child’s age or stage of life
  • The urgency or presenting needs of the child and family

Portage Visits

Portage Visitors visit a family in their own home weekly for one hour. After an assessment period, goals are agreed based on current skills and abilities focussing on positive outcomes. It will include ideas to help develop all aspects of the child’s play and learning, growth and development. Portage can combine therapy targets as well.

Portage model includes:

  • Regular home visits by a trained Portage home visitor on a weekly basis, same day at a set time during the period equivalent to school terms.
  • Working in partnership with parents/carers, helping to identify outcomes they would like for their child, and plan goals for learning.
  • Empowering parents/carers to support their child’s development by setting small achievable targets and to demonstrate the child’s progress through regular programmes of activities.
  • Parents/carers are encouraged to find time each day to practice an activity included in the child’s normal daily routine or play. Other members of the family are encouraged to join in too.
  • Reviewing and discussing the child’s progress with the parent/carer during each visit and at regular intervals. These reviews aim to celebrate success and outline the focus for continuation
  • Families/carers need to be available for Portage, there is limited flexibility to cancel or change visits.

End of service

Continuation of Portage is reviewed alongside the review of goals and also will finish:

  • If the family requests for a temporary or permanent cessation of visits
  • When progress made by the child means that criteria may no longer be met
  • If the child is offered a place at a specialist educational provision
  • If there are regular cancelled, failed visits or parent/carer is not available
  • Child and family move out of Portsmouth

Service evaluation

Following involvement with a family whether Portage or Portage Plus, all Portage home visitors will provide parents and settings with an evaluation survey to complete. This is available as an online survey using Survey Monkey. Paper versions can be provided.  This information is then collated on an annual basis and reviewed by the Inclusion management. Parent’s views are routinely sought and recorded as part of the Portage visit.

Download the Portage Referral Form

Tel: 02392 688612  Email:

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