Early years for children with SEND

In your child's early years, you may have questions or concerns about their development - this may be because of a health condition identified during pregnancy or at birth, or because you worry their development is not as you anticipated. You can discuss your concerns with your doctor or your health visitor.

In this section:

Early education

Children develop quickly in their early years and a child's experiences between birth and 5-year-old have a major impact on their future life chances. Good parenting and high-quality early learning provide the foundation a child needs to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.

Childcare and early years provision 

When choosing childcare, you want to be sure that your child is safe, secure and happy. Finding suitable childcare for a child with a disability or special educational needs can often require a little more consideration in terms of environment, setting and experience.

Get information and advice on finding childcare 

A day nursery, pre-school playgroup or a school will have a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCo). This is a person who is responsible for assessing, planning and monitoring the progress of children with special educational needs and disabilities.  

All early years settings (day nurseries, pre-school playgroups, childminders and school nurseries) have access to support to help with the inclusion and development of children with disabilities or special educational needs. This support may include:

  • early years SEND advisors 
  • key working team 
  • statutory and non-statutory funding  
  • training for professionals and parents/carers 
  • sensory support for children with hearing or visual impairment or physical disability needs.

Early years SEND assessment centre

Our assessment centre, located at Ruislip Gardens Primary School, is for 2 to 4-year-olds who have severe and long-term needs, and whose early learning and play skills are significantly delayed.

Please note: 

  • Only SEND professionals can make referrals to the assessment centre. Referrals will be presented to a multi-disciplinary panel, who will review the evidence and decide if the child meets the admission criteria.
  • Referrals will not be accepted directly from other settings or parent/carers. 

Find out more about the SEND assessment centre

Help paying for childcare and other financial support for SEND families 

All 3 and 4-year-old children are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week.

Working families are entitled to 30 hours of free childcare for their 3 or 4-year-old child (from the term after their child's 3rd birthday). 

Some 2-year-old children (including children in low-income families and those in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or who have an EHCP) are also entitled to 15 hours of free childcare.

Read more about help paying for childcare

Portage Service

Portage is a home visiting service for families of pre-school children (0 to 5-year-olds) with special educational needs and disabilities.  

The team helps families create a lift of learning together, playing together, and participating and being included in their community in their own right. 

The service does this through the following types of support:  

  • regular home visits (usually on a fortnightly basis) 
  • groups 
  • telephone or online meetings.

Portage criteria

A child can be referred to the Portage Service if they:

  • live in Hillingdon 
  • have a delay in more than one area of their development and
  • are not regularly attending a nursery or school setting.

Referrals are made to the Portage Service by professionals working with a family (for example, children's centre workers, health visitors, therapists). 

Please note: Parents cannot self-refer to the Portage Service.

If you are a professional wishing to make a referral, please do so via our Stronger Families Hub pages.

Starting full-time education  

Children can start attending school full-time (also known as reception class) from the September after their 4th birthday.

When applying for reception class, you can discuss our child's learning or special needs with the headteacher or SENCO, who will tell you about the support they provide and how they will support your child's learning needs.

Each school has a budget for meeting the needs of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. 

View primary schools in Hillingdon

Page last updated: 15 May 2024