Information about Wiltshire based educational services and learning to support birth to primary age SEND children.
The information on this page is for parents and carers of children aged 0 to 5 years, pre-school. If your child has started school then you may find more relevant information in our 5 to 11, primary section.
Are you accessing all the help available for the cost of childcare? Childcare Choices is a Government website that helps you see what you may be entitled to. For more information on free entitlement, and the Disability Fund, see: Early years and childcare.
Early Years Education Options
There are a variety of options for children under the age of 5 in Wiltshire to start their educational journey, visit the sections below find out more.
Wiltshire Portage is a registered charity and independent organisation providing a free, home-visiting, specialist educational service for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Their service reaches over 100 families across the towns and villages of Wiltshire (excluding Swindon) for children from birth to school entry, operating during term time for 38 weeks a year. Phone support, and some face to face support, is available over the holiday periods.
Wiltshire is unique within England, as it has an independent portage service, and its provision runs through to school entry. The early support and contributions towards EHCP for children with delayed learning is hugely beneficial as the best start for family and child.
The aim is to work with families and their young children to provide unique learning opportunities through holistic play, and a step by step individualised programme to help them develop a quality of life and experience in which they can learn together, play together, participate, and be included in their community.
Sessions are divided between 'Core' programme blocks and 'Getting Ready for School', depending on the individual child's requirements and journey to school entry.
For admissions information, visit Policies and procedures, or their website for more information.
For specific information about OFSTED registered childcare, child minders, and specific sources of support and information for early years aged children, visit:
Children's centres and their services in the community are places where parents with children aged 0 to 5 years can share the challenges and joys of parenthood. They offer a range of activities and support services to help you with all aspects of parenting to make sure your child gets the best start in life.
For more information visit:
Wiltshire has four District Specialist Centres, also known as
Opportunity Groups. They provide setting based sessions for young children (aged 0 to 5 years) with special education needs and/or disability (SEND) and support for parents/carers.
Each service has specially trained staff and equipment to ensure they can meet the needs of all children including those with the most profound and complex needs including complex health needs.
The District Specialist Centre is also a local hub for specialist services for young disabled children so families can access health professionals such as speech and language (these services can also be accessed through professional referral). They take a team around the child approach, so work closely with other services including the SEND Service to ensure the holistic needs of the child and their family are met.
All educational settings are required, by the Department of Education, to set out their SEND statements on their website; use those pages to learn more about your chosen educational establishments SEN provision and policies.
Children with an identified complex SEN, or children who (despite evidence-based support and interventions) continue to make less than expected development, may need to access specialist support.
Specialist support can be accessed through mainstream early years settings making referrals into further specialist support services and professionals or accessing a District Specialist Centre.
Mainstream settings can also access additional SEN funding.
Children with complex SEN can access both a mainstream setting and/or a District Specialist Centre, splitting any early years entitlement funding and hours between both settings. This is known as a dual placement.
All support offered is child and family centred and should consider individual family's needs and the best ways to support them.
Children accessing specialist support may meet the threshold for statutory support. To access statutory support a request for an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) may need to be made to access an EHCP.
For more information visit the Education, Health and Care Plans page.
Universal and targeted support
All early years providers are required to have arrangements in place to identify and support children with SEN or disabilities and to support equality of opportunity for children in their care. These requirements are set out in the EYFS framework.
The special educational provision made for a child should always be based on an understanding of the child's strengths and needs, and should seek to address them all using well evidenced interventions targeted at areas of difficulty and, where necessary, reasonable adjustments made to meet the needs of the child. This will help to overcome barriers to learning and participation.
Early years providers can access targeted support by speaking to a range of different professionals and agencies, listed in the education support section, who will be able to advise them.
Our OPAL resource is a web based resource, with supporting development network, which defines what provision education settings should ordinarily make available for children and young people.
You can find out more by visiting:
Providing early help is more effective in promoting the welfare of children rather than reacting later
Early identification and appropriate intervention can make a significant difference to future outcomes for children and could help reduce the need for statutory or specialist services and interventions at a later stage.
In accordance with the SEND Code of Practice (DfE, 2015), the EYIA role is to:
- provide advice and guidance to early years providers on the development of inclusive early learning environments
- provide advice and guidance to ensure early years providers implement a graduated approach to SEND support
- support early years providers with making links between education, health and social care to run appropriate early provision for children with SEN and their transition to compulsory schooling
- support mainstream early years settings with the inclusion of children, where the mainstream setting has requested support and parental consent has been gained
EYIAs can support early years settings and childminders who have identified children with the following needs that influence on a child's learning and development:
- communication and interaction difficulties
- cognition and learning difficulties
- personal, social and emotional difficulties
- physical and medical needs (alongside SIPMS team advisory teacher)
- sensory processing difficulties
- complex family background which may be contributing to a developmental delay
An EYIA can work collaboratively with early years settings and childminders to:
- up-skill and give greater understanding to early years SENCOs and early years educators to support children with SEND
- provide advice, practical support and strategies to enable settings to adopt a graduated response to individual children's needs
- ensure settings meet requirements of the SEND Code of Practice (DfE, 2015) and Statutory Requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfE, 2021)
- provide support to early years SENCOs in ensuring arrangements are in place to support children with SEND. This may include offering targeted advice and strategies, providing guidance over the completion of SEN documentation
- provide support and advice for the setting regarding starting the Statutory EHCNA (Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment) process to support the child if required
- attend multi-agency Team Around the Child (TAC) meetings where support is needed
- recommend multi-agency working and encourage settings to make referrals to external agencies that may further support the child
- create and provide training packages that support SENCOs and early years educators to provide high quality, inclusive provision
- host SENCO clusters as an opportunity for SENCOs to share good practice and access national and local updates
- provide guidance and support to early years settings with child transitions into primary school
How to make a referral to the Early Years Inclusion Advisor:
- referrals will only be accepted from mainstream early years settings and childminders
- mainstreams early years settings and childminders must follow the EYIA flowchart in the first instance
- early years settings and childminders to gain parental consent via completion of the EYIA consent form
- early years settings to complete the quick checker of the GRSS (Graduated Response to SEN Support)
- referrals and GRSS quick checker to be sent to EYIAreferrals@wiltshire.gov.uk protected with the pre-agreed password
- referrals should be made in a timely manner to ensure that support and advice from the EYIA can be embedded effectively. Late referrals (e.g. a child going into school and referral being made in the summer term) may not be accepted
The following is NOT within the remit of the Early Years Inclusion Advisor:
- providing an opinion around delaying and deferring individual children's school places. Only informing settings of the school admissions guidance around this
- sourcing a place for a child at a mainstream early years setting
- taking the lead professional role within a My Support Plan or Early Support Assessment
- liaising directly with parents outside of a multi-agency forum meeting
- supporting children who have left the early years mainstream setting or childminder
- intervening in conflicts between early years mainstream settings or childminders
- sourcing a place at a mainstream school, resource base or specialist School
SEN specialist support
The following services all support learners to access the education they need. This may be by providing training to supporting professionals or parent/carers, they also cover a wide range of specialisms in equipment and holistic practices.
- Specialist SEN Service
- Habilitation, Independence and mobility support
- Hearing Support Team
- Physical and Medical Team
- Visual Support Team
- Behaviour Support Team
- Educational Psychology Team
For more information visit:
Funding for 2 year old children
From September 2014 the law changed to allow more two year olds to benefit from funded childcare than ever before. In Wiltshire, we have branded the funding as 'Better 2gether Funding'.
Funding for 3 to 4 year old children
All 3 and 4 year olds qualify for 570 free hours a year at an approved childcare provider. This can be taken as 15 hours a week during school term time or fewer hours per week over more weeks. Additional costs like meals, nappies and trips may be charged. Some 3 to 4 year olds are eligible for 30 hours a week, Check if you're eligible and find out how to apply on the GOV.UK: Get 30 hours free childcare: step by step web site guide.
Help with the cost of paying for approved childcare tax free childcare, 15 and 30 hours childcare, childcare vouchers, tax credits, learner support. Help with childcare costs.
SEN Support funding available
There are a number of funds that are available to help children with SEND access early years provision to aid in their development. Every Local Authority must these funds available to meet the needs of children with SEN.
Inclusion Support Funding (ISF)
The aim of the early years Inclusion Support Funding is to make a financial contribution towards assisting with the inclusion of children aged 0 to 5 years who have a disability or difficulty that creates a barrier to their learning. Funding will apply to children attending settings within Wiltshire regardless of where they live.
For professionals with a Right Choice login looking to apply for funding visit Right Choice ISF application.
Disability Access Fund (DAF)
Disability Access Fund (DAF) is an annual payment made direct to the setting of at least £800 for any child aged 3 or 4 who is in receipt of DLA. It can be used for physical adaptations, aids, or training for staff as long as it helps that individual child to access the provision.
A personal budget is the money Wiltshire Council allocates to an individual to meet their assessed support needs.
An outcome based assessment will be carried out to establish an approximate figure for how much the council would need to spend to meet an individual's needs.
A personal SEN budget is a sum of money made available to an educational setting by a local council, above and beyond the basic funding settings receive for all children and young people (top up funding), to allow them to meet a child or young person's educational need. This budget will be used to support a child or young person to achieve pre-agreed educational outcomes. The need for a personal budget is considered as part of the statutory assessment. If you have questions about this you can talk to your lead worker if you have one, or Contacting the Wiltshire SEND team.
As of September 2023 there are currently 60 children/young people with Personal Budgets. These range in value, the largest valued at £80581.
Applications are typically accepted if the Personal Budgets will directly support the outcomes of a learner's Education, Health & Care Plan (EHCP).
You can read the policy information and further guidance on personal budgets in the document library.
Wiltshire Council provides a range of sessions on parenting across various ages and specialities.
Time Out for Parents
No diagnosis or EHCP required.
Children with Special Needs (TOFP) is for parents and carers of children with additional or special needs aged 3-11 years. TOFP courses are 2 hours per week for 7 sessions and are free of charge. A medical or formal diagnosis is not required for parents and carers to attend. Wiltshire Council are working in partnership with the Wiltshire Parent Carer Council to offer these courses.
For further information and how to book courses visit:
Autism Parent Program
SWAPP is a partnership programme between parents and their child's setting or school that aims to build an understanding of autism and the challenges and delights it can present.
The programme aims to empower families and staff who are closely involved in supporting a child or young person with autism.
Sessions cover all aspects of autism including communication, sensory issues and behaviour.
For more information and booking details visit:
For further parenting programme details visit: Parenting Programmes.
- Sensory needs can be difficulties with any sense, it is most commonly difficulties with vision or hearing. However, especially among children and young people with autistic spectrum disorders, it can also include challenges with sense of touch or reaction to strong smells or noise levels
- Social, emotional and mental health needs relates to how children and young people respond to situations and environments they find themselves in and how they form and maintain relationships
- Cognitive and learning needs relates to how a child or young person understands, processes and retains information and therefore, how they are able, or struggle, to learn. For example those with dyslexia
- Communication and interaction needs relates to how a child or young person expresses themselves and communicates with those around them. It is most commonly associated with challenges speaking, but can also include children and young people who struggle to express or understand their emotions or to make it clear how they feel
- Physical and medical needs are those associated with a child's or young person's body or health. This is most commonly associated with challenges in movement or independent personal care. However, it may include a range of illnesses, or bodily difficulties that affect a child or young person in a setting