Shropshire Council


What is Portage?

Portage is a home visiting educational service for pre–school children with SEND and their families. It helps parents teach their children new skills at home under direction of the portage home visitor. The scheme specifies particular teaching techniques and curriculum of skills to be learnt.

Portage aims to:

  • Work with families to help them develop a quality of life and experience, for themselves and their young children, in which they can learn together, play together, participate and be included in their community in their own right
  • Play a part in minimizing the disabling barriers that confront young children and their families
  • Support the national and local development of inclusive services for children

The Portage model

Portage is a model of support for children and families which can be adapted and used effectively both in the home and in early year’s settings. All Portage practice is based on the Portage Model. There are three elements to this model, offering a framework of support that respects each family and their own individual priorities. The model is a dynamic one with different aspects taking precedence at different times, adapting flexibly to the individual needs of each child and family.

The three elements

Family focus

  • This is time spent sharing and addressing the families’ needs and priorities.

Structured teaching

  • Time spent reviewing and planning play based teaching activities, using the Portage small steps approach to learning.

Child-led play

  • Time spent observing self-initiated play to identify individual interests, strengths and emerging skills

How does it work?

Portage children and their parents are visited at home by the Portage home visitor. The first three visits are usually fortnightly. This usually gives the family and the Portage home visitor a chance to get to know each other, prepare materials and plan for future visits. Once this has been established visits become weekly and last for about an hour. The parent and home visitor work in partnership to develop a programme that is specific to meet the child’s needs.

The home visitor designs appropriate teaching activities. Skills that are difficult, or take a long time to learn, are broken down into easy steps which can be practised daily. Once the Portage home visitor has modelled the teaching method for a particular activity during the home visit, the family are left with the activity and practise it daily with their child for an agreed length of time. On the following visit progress is reviewed and new steps may be introduced until the child has mastered the new skill being taught.

If a child is in a mainstream setting the home visitor will visit the child in the setting half-termly to observe and monitor progress, give advice and to suggest outcomes and activities to help the child generalise skills learned in the home and develop new ones.

Who can access the service?

All children are referred by paediatricians and must live in Shropshire or Telford & Wrekin. Children must have two or more concerns within their learning and development to access the service

The team

The team consists of two full-time home visitors, one part-time home visitor and a team leader, who assess the needs of the children to ensure that they meet the criteria. They also manage a caseload of families.

Contact the Portage Service: