Portage is a home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with additional support needs and their families.

The SEND Early Years team is a group of experienced early years practitioners who provide support for children and families by delivering high quality education for children 0-5 years old. We deliver this service in the home, in early years settings and in schools. 

What is Portage?

Portage is educational support for children aged birth-3 who have additional needs. It is provided in the home or school setting. Portage aims to improve areas of children’s development through play with the goal of enriching their life experiences.

Through our inclusive practice, we aim to reduce the barriers that young children and their families face.

Portage helps the family and early years setting to see the child’s strengths and challenges as well as their ability to learn. It gives the family confidence that they are doing everything they can to help the child achieve and reach their full potential. Portage helps people to understand the importance of breaking tasks down by teaching parents and practitioners how to teach small steps and celebrate each achievement as it happens.

Portage is part of the national and local development of inclusive services for children.

For more general information please visit the National Portage Association website

There are currently two groups for children with additional needs who are not in nursery or educational settings. 

1. Together we can

Together we can provide opportunities for children to play and learn in a safe environment with staff who understand their specific needs. We support children aged between 18 months and 3 years who are presenting with developmental delay by offering specialist play experiences and assessment. After a session, there will be time to discuss your child’s progress and to make referrals on to other agencies if needed. This is run in partnership with SEND Early Years Team and Central Health visiting team. 

2. Experience Group

The Experience group is for non-mobile children and their parents/carers. It provides opportunities for children to play and learn in a safe environment with staff who understand their specific needs. It also provides a space for parents/carers to talk to others in similar situations. 

Eligibility criteria 

Birth – 18 months 

  • An identified condition or syndrome where there is known to be an associated learning difficulty.
  • Developmental delay associated with premature delivery.
  • If a child meets the above criteria and is looked after by the Local Authority, they will be prioritised. 

18 months – 36 months

  • Developmental delay of 9+ months in two or more areas, as identified in the SEND Code of Practice 2014
  • Physical difficulties that significantly impact the child’s access to learning
  • Significant social and/or communication difficulties
  • If a child meets the above criteria and is looked after by the Local Authority, they will be prioritised. 

Identification and assessment process 

  1. Initial referral – the initial referral can only be made by teachers or professionals.
  2. Initial contact – Home visit to be completed by SEND Early Years team.
  3. Initial assessment – Visit is made to the home to discuss the child’s needs. A play based assessment will be carried out to see the current level of development against the criteria for support from the service. Where English is an additional language, an interpreter will be provided. Support needs will be discussed and agreed.
  4. Allocation of worker - SEND Early Years Portage worker or a Family Hub worker will be allocated to the family.
  5. Portage worker will contact the family/setting to arrange the first visit. 

We will also signpost to other services such as Coventry Speech and Language Service, Coventry Occupational Therapy Service and SEND Early Years Teachers to further aid a child’s development.

Coventry SEND Support Service in Early Years Settings 

We support the early identification of children with SEND and aim to develop inclusive practice in settings and schools. We work in partnership with parents to improve the outcomes for children in the Early Years Foundation stage. We support children to make progress from their individual starting point. SEND early years teachers offer support to children in their nursery year and support the transition into reception in mainstream schools. 

Identification and Assessment Process 

Initial referrals can be made by teachers and professionals. For example, if a child is in a setting, the parent or carer would raise the concern with the SENCo. If a child is at home the concern could be raised via the health visitor. We have an open referral route and encourage schools and settings to refer in if they a concern about a child’s development. Once the referral has been processed a teacher from the team will be allocated and they will make contact with the school or setting and arrange to do an initial visit to observe the child. They will assess the level of support needed using the 4 areas of need in the Code of Practice and the Early Years Foundation Stage. Teacher will use a modelling and coaching approach in order to enhance the skills of the setting to be able to support the needs of the child and remove barriers to learning. If further support is needed we will signpost to other services including Educational Psychology Speech and Language and Occupational Therapy.  

SEND Early Years Complex Communication 

Send Early Years Complex Communication is made up of a teacher, a preschool coordinator and 2 Higher Level Teaching Assistants. We offer targeted support where it is most needed. Support is offered to children in early years settings with a diagnosis of Autism and for those on the pathway. We offer group sessions to children and support and advice to parents and carers. We are licensed to deliver the National Autistic Society Early Bird programme. Once an initial assessment has been completed targeted nursery support will be offered depending on the level of need. This could be from the teacher who will do observations and offer advice, strategies and support with target setting. Children may also be offered blocks of support from a higher level teaching assistant who will model strategies to staff and work on targets that have been set.