Swindon has a wealth of services for children in the early years and their families. Take a look at our early years literacy directory or download our online resource to help give your child the best start in life and support their literacy development.
Please note that specialist services are only offered in certain areas or settings on a referral basis depending on the child's need.
Adult Community Learning
Swindon Borough Council’s Adult Community Learning service offers a variety of learning opportunities for those 19 and over - these include courses for parents to develop and support their own and child’s literacy development. Choose from ‘Helping Your Child to Learn’, ‘Storysacks’, ‘Start to Read’ for adults as well as ‘English for Speakers of Other Languages’ among others.
Courses take place in community settings and are generally 2-3 hour sessions weekly, for up to 10 weeks.
Swindon Parenting Hub
Swindon Parenting Hub provides support and advice to families with children aged 0 - 19 years throughout the borough. Available activities include:
- Play Together for children aged 0-5 and their families, with groups run in local communities across Swindon
- Baby Caterpillars for babies and their families
- One-to-one parenting support
- Honeybees for children with a diagnosis, or communication and attachment issues
- Bumps, Baby and Me for expectant parents and families with children up to 12 months
- Parenting support groups, including Family Links Nurturing programme and Managing Challenging Behaviour sessions (for parents of children aged 2 – 10 years)
- PEEP groups for children aged 0-36 months, with a focus on language and communication, and parent/child interaction
- Dad's groups and parenting support for fathers and their children, coordinated by a male Father's Worker
Swindon's team of health visitors work directly with parents and local communities to provide help and guidance on a wide range of health-related issues. Health visitors review children's development at birth, six weeks and age 2.
- Discussing with parents the importance of responding to your baby, talking, singing and reading
- Bookstart free books, tips and library information for children aged 6-8 weeks and treasure packs for children aged 2
- Helpful conversations around literacy development, playgroup information and ideas for imaginative play
- Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) assessment for all children aged 2 to 2 and a half, which will include specific advice on their language development
- Library outreach
- Bookstart packs for families with children with special educational needs
- Baby massages (criteria apply)
- Interventions around play and interaction based on individual's needs.
Speech and language therapy
Children who are referred to Speech and Language Therapy Service will receive an assessment of their strengths and needs. This may be through observations, discussion or direct assessment. Advice and support is then given to parents, carers, and others who spend time with the child to help them best support the child’s speech, language and communication needs
Training opportunities are also available for a range of parents, carers and professionals including Signalong training.
There are a range of specialist interventions for needs including stammering, hearing impairment, and eating and drinking difficulties.
Swindon Portage and Special Tots
Swindon Portage and Special Tots services support preschool children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). A child may be referred to Swindon Portage for the home visiting programme where there are two or more areas of need, and children with specific identified needs can be referred to Special Tots group based at the Salt Way Centre. Their activities include:
- Bespoke individualised teaching at home and/or in group session
- Daily use of Signalong/PECS depending on child's need
- Story and singing time within the allocated sessions
- Story sacks available to borrow
- Activities to promote skills within the early years foundation curriculum
Explorers, formerly known as Koalas, provides support information and advice to families who have preschool children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). It also runs sessions once a week for the child. Based at Salt Way Centre, it covers the activities listed in the Swindon Portage section, as part of the Specialist Early Years Centre, along with Special Tots and Portage.
A child may be referred to Explorers if they have specific to complex identified needs and they are either receiving multi-professional input, or is likely to require it before they start school. This may also include children who have significant medical conditions.
There are five main libraries in Swindon, offering activities for children in the early years including:
- Weekly story and rhyme times for children aged 0-5
- Summer Reading Challenge - the UK's biggest reading challenge
- Bear’s Reading Adventure –a picture book reading challenge in which children collect stickers
- Fun With Stories - a developmental course for children aged 4-5 and their families
Early Years Quality and Inclusion Team
Swindon’s early years and childcare workforce provide support to practitioners with events and training including:
- Network meetings for early years managers three times a year and six times a year for childminders, focusing on good practice and training
- Regular training for the early years workforce, focusing on communication and language development and good practice
- Training for settings and childminders with a focus on communication and language and phonics
- Online resource bank that includes 'I can' materials
Child care services
- To find out if you are eligible for 15 hours free childcare for your two-year-old and 30 hours free childcare for your three-year-old, please contact Gemma Ferguson, Early Years Engagement Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Free Family Information Directory - an online index of local family services providers is where families can search for childcare places
- Early Years portage and directories on Swindon's Local Offer website
Early Words Together
Our Early Words Together programme, which helps parents support their young child’s literacy and language development, is also available in several settings across the town.