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Early Years Support

Early Years Support

Thurrock Early Support and Portage Service is an education service accredited by the National Portage Association to support pre-school children aged 0-5 years with a range of special educational needs and disabilities.  The service is based at Treetops School and works closely with the Educational Psychology Service at Thurrock council.  There are four parts to the service:

  • Portage home visiting with three key elements: family focus to hear about and address family priorities, child-led play to identify and develop children’s strengths and interests, and structured teaching to support children’s development using a small steps approach to learning.  This service is offered for children with two or more areas of need.    
  • Portage outreach support to pre-school and nursery settings to help them to develop their practice and meet children’s additional needs. 
  • Early Support meetings to coordinate support from education, health, and case services, with a focus upon family’s hopes and aspirations for their child and the outcomes they wish to achieve. 
  • Portage Playgroup for children with additional needs aged 0-5 years

Thurrock Early Support and Portage Service also works closely with health professionals and Children’s Centres to coordinate support for children and their families. 

When making a referral or being referred

We offer an open access service and referrals can be made by parents or professionals.  When a referral is received, this information is considered by a panel of professionals from health, education, and care services who are experienced in working with young children and their families.  The early years panel will decide which early years service will be able to help. 

The early years panel may recommend that an Early Support meeting is arranged if there are several professionals supporting your child.  The purpose for the Early Support meeting is to provide you with the opportunity to talk to all of the professionals involved with your child together.  We want to hear about your child’s personality and character, their interests and achievements, as well learning more about what you want your child to achieve and the hopes and aspirations you have for your child’s future.  The professionals may talk about their assessments of your child’s development and learning and the support they think your child will need to achieve what you hope for them.  An action plan will then be made jointly with you.  An Early Support review meeting may take place at a later stage to see how your child is progressing.

You may be offered home visits by a Portage worker before your child starts attending a nursery or pre-school if your child needs support in two or more areas of their development.  Portage home visits usually take place weekly for one school term in the first instance.

When it is time for your child to start attending an early years setting, you can talk to the setting’s special educational needs coordinator, or SENCO, if you have questions of concerns about your child’s development and learning.  The SENCO may speak to other professionals supporting your child and may want to observe your child in the early years setting so that they can find out more about your child’s strengths and the areas where there may need some extra help.  The SENCO will then make a plan with you about the kind of activities and strategies they may try to help your child to progress.  The plan will include targets known as ‘outcomes’.  The SENCO will talk to you regularly your child’s progress towards these outcomes to decide whether the plan is working or whether something else needs to be tried.  This is called assess, plan, do, review.  The SENCO may seek advice and ideas from one of the early years outreach services by contacting the early years panel.  The early years outreach services are based at Beacon Hill, Treetops, and St Clere’s Schools and they can offer different kinds of advice depending upon your child’s needs.  We also have an Area SENCO who is employed by Thurrock Council and offers advice and support to all SENCOs in independent pre-school and nurseries in Thurrock and to childminders too.            

In Thurrock, we believe that parents know their child best.  This means that when plans made to support your child, professionals should begin by asking you about your views of your child’s development and learning, your priorities for your child now, and your hopes and aspirations for your child’s future.  This is called a person-centred approach.  We have created a booklet called All About Me to help parents to think about and share their views with professionals.  You can ask your SENCO, Health Visitor, or a member of the Early Support and Portage team to help if you would like to make an All About Me. 

We also want to hear your child’s views too.  Even though your child may still be very young and their communication skills are still developing, they will be telling you lots about their likes, dislikes, and what they want to do through their reactions and responses to the world around them.  Take a little time to watch your child and notice how they are responding to different activities, people and places and talk to other professionals about what they notice too.  Together, we can build a picture of what is important to your child and the things we think they would like to be able to do. 

Early Years Case Studies

You are not alone project March 2022

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