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This area is aimed at children 0-5, pre-school.  If your child has started school then you may find more relevant information in our 5-11 primary section.

Are you accessing all the help available for the cost of childcare?  Childcare Choices is a Government website that can help you see what you may be entitled to. For more information on free entitlement and the Disability Fund, go to the Wiltshire Council website.

Our aim is for every child and young person in Wiltshire to have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to respond effectively to challenges of the future.We are committed to closing attainment gaps for disadvantaged learners and ensuring they reach their full potential. 

Our Accessibility Strategy for Educational Settings 2016-19 sets out how we will further develop the accessibility of early years and childcare settings, maintained schools and under certain circumstances academies, for pupils parents carers and staff. Through engagement with children and young people, parents/carers and partners, our focus will be on access to:

  • Curriculum - increasing the extent to which pupils with SEND can access the Early Years Foundation Stage and schools curriculum to meet their potential and ensure progress
  • Environment - improving the physical environment of Early Years settings and schools to increase the extent to which pupils with SEND can take advantage of education and associated services
  • Information - improving the delivery to pupils with SEND and their parents and carers of information about the Early Years setting and school.

Parents/carers told us that they often have to rely on word of mouth to understand what ‘good’ education support looks like. Every setting will approach support for children with special educational needs slightly differently, but we have worked with early years providers and specialists to capture a standard offer.


Children with long-term or complex special educational needs will need specialist support. This is the kind of support provided for children who meet the statutory threshold.  These are the children who will have an Education, Health and Care plan.  In Wiltshire we call the EHC Plan a ‘My Plan’.

This type of support is completely person-centred, which means it will vary depending on an individual’s needs. A separate section on EHCP explains how this works.


Portage is a home visiting, home education service that works with young disabled children (aged 0-5) and their families.

  • Wiltshire has two Portage services. Salisbury Portage covers South Wiltshire
  • Wiltshire Portage is a local charity that covers the rest of the county
  • Portage Home Visitors are specially trained  and break down learning outcomes into small steps suitable to the child’s level of ability
  • Portage works closely with both child and parent /carer to not only help the child’s development, but also to empower the parent to help their child learn
  • Portage takes 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

Full information can be found on the Wiltshire portage website


From September 2014 the law changed to allow more two year olds to benefit from free childcare than ever before.  In Wiltshire, we have branded the funding as ‘Better 2gether Funding’.


Wiltshire Council provides free early education places for all three and four year olds in Wiltshire. Free places can be provided by a variety of providers in the maintained, private, voluntary and independent sector, including accredited child minders.


For specific information about OFSTED registered childcare, child minders and specific sources of support and information for early years aged children, please have a look at our Childcare Directory.

Childcare online directory 


For more information about Children’s centres


Wiltshire has four district specialist centres, also known as Opportunity Groups. They provide setting based sessions for young children (aged 0-5) 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.



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:
Relate 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:
Related to how a child or young person understands, processes and retains information and therefore, how they are able, or struggle, to learn.

Communication and interaction needs:
Relate 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.


Additional support and information is available to help children and young people when moving through different phases of education, e.g. from Early Years to school.  All maintained nurseries, schools and academies are required to publish a SEN information report which provides information about the support they offer for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities within their care.

Visit our Primary Education section for information about primary schools and specialist support for 5-11 year olds.


Mediation and disagreement resolution arrangements exist to help resolve issues for children or young people with SEN, including those who are being assessed for or who have a My Plan (EHC plan), where the normal school or college complaints routes have not reached a satisfactory outcome. Meetings aim to resolve any disagreements in a quick, informal way using a third party mediator to help reach a satisfactory resolution. Read more on our Mediation and Appeals page.


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Last updated: 22 January 2020 | Last reviewed: 22 January 2020