HRH The Princess of Wales visits Kent to highlight the importance of early childhood

HRH The Princess of Wales greets families supported by the Kent Portage Team. She plays games with a child on the floor

The Princess of Wales joined a family session at a community centre in Kent today, to highlight the importance of supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families.

The Princess was at the Orchards Centre in Sittingbourne to see the work of the Kent Portage Team, which provides both home visits and group sessions for children with SEND from birth up to preschool age and works with families to aid the development of their children.

The service supports families and children to learn together, play together and to participate in their community.

Her Royal Highness joined a sensory development class with a group of children with a range of needs and conditions, including social communications difficulties, autism, complex needs, and Down Syndrome. The Princess met parents and their children, as well as some of the frontline practitioners delivering the service, to understand more about Portage and how it supports families on a day-to-day basis.

Tracy Harvey, Portage County Manager for Kent County Council, said: "We are thrilled the Princess of Wales has come to Kent to find out about Portage and how our services support pre-school children with SEND and their families.

"Portage works directly with each child, focusing on individual areas of development. Positive feedback from families shows that Portage offers the best support and has a significant impact on the child and the whole family, both in the home and the community.

"It is such a privileged position to be working alongside families in partnership and celebrating successes with them."

As highlighted in the Shaping Us campaign, which The Princess launched in January, our relationships, experiences, and surroundings in our earliest years lay the foundations that shape the rest of our lives.

Providing strong support for children, parents and carers during these years is essential and can have a life-changing impact – this is never truer than for those families caring for children with special educational needs.

The National Portage Association, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, works with more than 100 Portage services, providing a quality framework and training for Portage Practitioners and parents.

Further information

The Kent Portage Team have a webpage here:

Find out more about the work of the National Portage Association here:

Explore the Shaping Us campaign here: