Early Years Specialist Support Service & Cleveland Unit Child Development Centre

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* From September 2020, the Cleveland unit will be based at Hemlington Initiative Centre. As we are still sorting this relocation, we have intermittant access to our old telephone line. If you need to contact us, please contact the SEN Duty line 01642 201831 and they will take a message and pass this on to the team. 

Local Authority Service for early identification, assessment and intervention for children aged 0-4 years with special educational needs and/or disabilities.  

The EYSSS provides outreach support (for staff) & inclusion support (for children) in mainstream early years settings as well as training.

The EYSS Service includes the Cleveland Unit Child Development Centre (CUCDC) which provides identification and assessment, specialist teaching, intervention and therapy for children with the most complex special educational needs as well as support for their families.  


Who to contact

Contact Name
Jennie Kitchen
Contact Position
Head of Service
01642 729972 01642 729972
Cleveland Unit website
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Where to go

The Cleveland Unit Child Development Centre
Hemlington Initiative Centre (Next to Hemlington Recreation Centre)
Cass House Road
View TS8 9QW on a map

Time / Date Details

When is it on
Term Time Only: Monday - Friday: 9.00am - 3.00pm
Session Information
The CUCDC Assessment Nursery runs Monday
Thursday & Friday. Early Intervention Groups run on Wednesdays and Tuesdays.


No costs - specialist referral only service 


Age Ranges
3 - 5 years
Referral required
Referral Details

Open referral using a single referral form to access all services. Form is available on our website. 

Other notes

We are a specialist service for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities. 

Local Offer


The Early Years Specialist Support Service (incorporating the Cleveland Unit Child Development Centre) is a specialist service.

We provide identification of need, assessment, specialist teaching, interventions and therapy for children with special educational needs and disabilities and support for their families. EYSS services include general support for mainstream early years settings in meeting children's special educational needs, specific outreach support for practitioners, inclusion support for children and training for practitioners. The EYSS Service also monitors the use of specific funding such as 'Disability Access Fund' and 'Inclusion Fund'. The EYSS Service is based in the Cleveland Unit Child Development Centre (CUCDC).

CUCDC services are for children with the most complex/high level needs and include Multi-Disciplinary Assessment, Portage, Joint Education Therapy Groups for Early Assessment, Intervention and support, Assessment Nursery, Inclusion Support, Outreach Support, parent and carer support and training.

Children and settings access the services by a single referral form which is considered by the Early Support panel who meet twice every half term.

Children are offered a service with the Cleveland Unit CDC if the Early Support Referral Panel agree that their special needs can be best met by CUCDC services. Usually this refers to a child having significant delay/difficulty in more than one area of learning and development e.g. learning and communication or learning and physical skills and a child who has or is likely to require support from more than one secondary agency eg speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy.

We support children with a wide variety of needs including autism, autistic spectrum disorder, downs syndrome and other learning disabilities, learning difficulties, learning delay, cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities, visual impairment, hearing impairment, sensory integration difficulties, communication difficulties, social emotional and mental health difficulties including challenging behaviour and global developmentl delay.

Contact Name
Jennie Kitchen
Contact Telephone
01642 854288
Contact Email
Local Offer Age Bands
Pre-Birth - 5 Years
Needs Level
SEN Provision Type

Schools Extended Local Offer Response

How does the setting/school/college know if children/young people need extra help and what should I do if I think my child/young person may have special educational needs?

The EYSS Service & the Cleveland Unit Child Development Centre are specialist provisions for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). All children must be referred to the service and have been identified by a professional as having SEND and therefore needing extra help. The criteria for access to CUCDC services is that children have significant delay/difficulties in more than one area of development. The CUCDC provides early assessment and intervention for children with SEND and support/advice for families. This may begin with a multi-disciplinary assessment (MDA) and continues with further assessment and intervention taking place during a Joint Education and Therapy (JET) Group or through attendance at the Assessment Nursery. Throughout their involvement with the CUCDC, more information about a child’s individual needs will emerge and we maintain an open dialogue with families in order to build a holistic picture of their individual strengths and needs.

How will early years setting/school/college staff support my child/young person?

The educational programme for every child is planned and led by qualified specialist teachers following consultation with all key professionals working with the child. We integrate learning, therapy, medical and care needs into developmentally appropriate activities delivered as part of a play based curriculum. In practice this means that a child may be playing in the sand with their friends whilst carrying out their speech and language therapy (as the adult is helping them to use sign to make choices), physiotherapy (as the adudlt helps them to stand and reach for toys), occupational therapy (as the adult encourages them to touch and explore the sand) and teaching (as the adult extends their attention to count the shells).

The main contact for each parent/carer is the teacher who can explain the educational programme for their child. In addition to the usual Early Years Foundation Stage activities, each child has an individual programme of specialist interventions, tailored to meet their special needs. Interventions take place throughout the nursery with many happening in the Interventions Room which is private and free of distractions. Every group is led by a qualified specialist teacher, supported by a specialist higher level teaching assistant (who takes responsibility whenever the teacher is out of class) and a number of specialist teaching assistants. Every child has an identified Key Person who meets all of their intimate care needs.

We have a Management Group (similar to a Governing Body in a school) who meet regularly to monitor the effectiveness of the service and approve developments. The Manager (Head of Service) reports directly to this group. Our registered charity has trustees who suggest and approve all purchases.

The provision for children and their progress is under constant review and is formally reviewed every term to ensure it is effective. Staff complete EYFS summative assessments using the Early Years Outcomes (Department for Education 2014) and SEN Support Plans which highlight achievement and identify areas for further development. All progress and achievement information informs the development of our service. Teachers meet with parents/carers at least termly to discuss their child's progress and next steps.

How will the curriculum be matched to my child's/young person's needs?

Along with all other early years settings, we follow the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework. All areas of learning are provided for and activities are presented at developmentally appropriate levels in order to offer appropriate support and challenge for every learner. We cater for all stages of learning and development. Access to environments, activities and experiences is individual to each child. Some children will use specialist equipment to support physical access such as a standing frame or an interactive switch to control computers or toys; others may benefit from 1:1 teaching or teaching being broken down into smaller, more achievable steps. Children may need adults to reduce the complexity of spoken language when giving instructions or to use an alternative and augmentative communication strategy such as PECs or Makaton Signing. Many of our children need a multi-sensory curriculum and we assess and incorporate sensory learning into all areas of the curriculum. Our Specialist Teachers work in partnership with other professionals such as Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Dieticians, Community Nurses and Occupational Therapists in order to determine appropriate individual programmes for each child’s time with us. In the Assessment Nursery all children have a ‘Special Educational Need Support Plan’ which details their individual strengths and needs, helpful strategies/support and monitors progress towards agreed targets. In all parts of the service we keep notes on children’s progress and incorporate therapy plans into our practice.

How will both you and I know how my child/young person is doing and how will you help me to support my child's/young person's learning?

Many families’ first encounter with the Cleveland Unit is during an multi-disciplinary assessment where a developmental screening tool is used to assess the child’s current developmental age in all key areas. This may take place at a ‘one-off’ appointment or could be completed during attendance at a Joint Education Therapy Group (which may be in the Cleveland Unit building or in one of several community hub buildings). This ‘snapshot’ assessment is then built on with ongoing assessment for learning (through observations, setting of individual learning objectives and reviews of progress), termly EYFS summative assessments and specialist assessments such as ‘Derbyshire Language Scheme’, ‘Sensory Checklist’ or ‘Pre-Verbal Communication Skills’. Where appropriate children are also referred for diagnostic assessment such as the ‘Multi-agency Autism Assessment Team’ (MAAT) Every child in The Cleveland Unit Assessment Nursery has an individual SEN Support Plan which is shared with parents/carers and other professionals/settings, is updated regularly and reviewed with parents/carers termly. All assessments are shared with parents/carers and contribute to the SEN Support Plan so that the curiculum is individually matched to each child's needs. Individual progress and therapy targets/learning objectives are discussed at termly reviews so that parents/carers feel confident in supporting their child’s progress at home. Often reviews are arranged jointly with therapists; sometimes there are separate appointments but the joint education therapy approach means that all therapy is integrated into learning experiences throughout the nursery day.

Children can have access to individual, small group and larger group teaching/support as necessary according to their needs. 

All progress information is shared with parents/carers. We have home-school diaries where we record key information such as what children have eaten, toileting etc. We also use an app called ‘MarvellousMe’ which enables us to share special moments of progress with families including photos and videos. When we develop our website we hope to be able to have a password protected area where parents/carers can securely access their child’s SEN Support Plan and other information online. One of our Higher Level Teaching Assistants is responsible for Family Liaison.

What support will there be for my child's/young person's overall well being?

One of our Specialist Teachers is responsible for Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs and we have a Working Group which meets every half term to consider our provision for this area. We complete a ‘Starting Nursery’ booklet with parents/carers prior to entering nursery which provides crucial information to support individual children’s wellbeing such as communicative ability, likes/dislikes, specific comfort objects or routines etc. We also collect detailed information regarding medical conditions, dietary and continence needs and how the child’s special educational needs/disabilities affect them. We complete a manual handling assessment which considers physical support as well as support for managing change/following instructions; an individual care plan is completed if assessment deems it to be appropriate. We ensure that all necessary support is identified and provided to protect children’s wellbeing and we regularly monitor children’s wellbeing and involvement using the Laever Scales observation tool and use this information to inform our planning. We have a Safeguarding Team and one of our Higher Level Teaching Assistants is responsible for Health & Safety.

We have a Healthy Eating Policy and where children are not able to follow this because of their special educational needs, we work with parents/carers to help children to work towards this.

Weekly team meetings take place where children’s wellbeing needs are discussed and plans made to support them. This may involve the writing of Individual Behaviour Support Plans or referral to specialist services such as CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service).

What specialist services and expertise are avaliable at or accessed by the setting/school/college?

All Cleveland Unit teachers and teaching assistants have the same qualifications as school staff plus additional training, qualifications and, most importantly, experience of teaching children with a wide range of special educational needs, disabilities and complex needs. We have teachers who act as lead/support for children with Autistic Spectrum Condition, Profound & Multiple Learning Difficulties and Complex Language & Learning Difficulties as well as all 4 categories of SEND. Many staff are qualified Derbyshire Language Scheme users and all staff are trained in basic Makaton signing. We follow a Total Communication Approach incorporating Makaton, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECs), Objects of Reference (OOR) as well as spoken language and other non-verbal communication. We utilise a range of technology products to support learning and communication including Voice Output Communication Aids, Eye Gaze Computer and iPads. In collaboration with physiotherapy and occupational therapy we provide a range of specialist equipment to support children with physical disability and/or sensory integration difficulties. We value multi-sensory learning and in addition to activities in our classrooms and outdoor areas, we have two specialist sensory rooms. The Sensory Movement Room is an active area which focusses on body awareness, balance and co-ordination and The Sensory Light Room is much calmer with a focus on the senses of vision, hearing and touch.

We work with children from birth to 5 years. In the very early years, contact may be predominantly with health colleagues and, where appropriate, our Portage Home Teaching service. For older children (around 2-3 years) we offer Joint Education Therapy Groups for early intervention and assessment which are attended by children and family members. For 3 and 4 year olds we provide The Assessment Nursery which has 50 part-time places. We also run an Outreach & Inclusion Service which provides support for children with SEND in mainstream settings and training/support for our mainstream colleagues. A CUCDC Assessment Nursery place provides 11 hours of the current 15 hour Nursery Education Grant entitlement and we encourage all parents/carers to try to find additional placement in a mainstream setting for their child’s extra 4 hours. Through our Inclusion Service, we can often provide a member of staff to support children for most of their extra 4 hours.

As a Child Development Centre we work closely with colleagues from Education, Health and Social Care including Educational Psychologists, Middlesbrough SEND Assessment Team, the Children with Disabilities Team, Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Community Nurses, Dieticians, Epilepsy Nurses, Orthotics, Consultant Paediatricians, Continence Nurses, CAMHS, MAAT. Where appropriate, we refer children to such services if they are not already involved.

How accessible is the setting/school/college enviroment?

Our building is on the ground floor of the hospital and very close to the South entrance. We also have an area at the back where parents/carers can park for a short period in order to drop off or pick up their children. As part of a modern, purpose built hospital, all areas are accessible. We have a disabled toilet and 2 full-size hydraulic adjustable changing beds. The learning environments used by children and staff are regularly reviewed and adjustments made to moveable furniture as necessary. Regular Access Audits praise the accessibility of the building and do not highlight any necessary changes.

How will the setting/school/college prepare and support my child/young person to join the setting/school/college or the next stage of education and life?

Throughout our involvement with a family, we engage in an open dialogue with parents/carers regarding possible school placements. Ongoing assessment helps to inform these discussions and, where appropriate, we refer to the Local Authority for an Education Health and Care assessment for a child’s special needs which may result in an Education, Health & Care Plan. Where appropriate, and as part of their ongoing assessment, some children will be able to spend time in a mainstream setting, accompanied by one of our staff. We have ongoing communication with schools/settings and visit them regularly to help us to prepare and support children through transitions.

We liaise with schools and settings in order to find out the best ways we can support transition; for example we developed our dining room to help children to get used to the dining rooms in schools.

Once an appropriate school placement is secured we enter a period of transition where staff from the school visit the child in our nursery, we take the child on at least one visit to the school and parents/carers visit the school again with their child. We share all relevant information and assessments with the school and where appropriate can offer training and support with any specialist strategies or equipment. This often involves school staff spending a number of days with the child in the CUCDC Assessment Nursery.

All children are supported to reach their full potential as confident and independent learners which is the best preparation for their future.

How are the setting's/school's/college's resources allocated and matched to children's/young people's special educational needs?

All initial referrals are brought to The Early Support Referral Panel before appropriate services are allocated. There is provision on the referral form to indicate preferred CUCDC services such as an MDA, Inclusion Support, Portage or full involvement via a JET Group/Assessment Nursery.

We have enhanced staffing ratios in all areas of our provision. Portage is 1:1, JET Groups are 1:2 and The Assessment Nursery is at least 1:2 for most of the day. Nursery classes are mixed meaning that all children have the opportunity to observe and become positive role models and we can tailor individual support as and when it is needed throughout the session or day. We consider each child’s individual needs when allocating class groups and classrooms and try to match staff experience and expertise where necessary e.g. placing a deaf child with a staff member who can use British Sign Language.

We are advised and trained by other professionals in the appropriate use of strategies, equipment and resources such as communication strategies and specialist equipment or exercises. Each child has an SEN Support Plan and many have additional Physiotherapy/Speech & Language Therapy/Occupational Therapy plans which staff follow. Wherever possible these are integrated into all nursery activities so that therapy is carried out throughout the nursery day. From time to time during the year, we bring in additional services such as Yogabugs which are allocated to those whom teachers feel will most benefit.

How is the decision made about what type and how much support my child/young person will receive?

The Early Support Referral Panel makes the first decision on which early support services a child receives. The ES Referral Panel meets fortnightly and is made up of representatives from Education, the Local Authority, Educational Psychology, Social Care, Health Visiting, Speech and Language Therapy and Physiotherapy. Decisions regarding further support to be offered are made jointly by CUCDC teachers, the Manager (Head of Service) and key professionals who work closely with the child (usually therapists). Where appropriate we may contact other professionals and/or the family for more information. We may also refer to other services where deemed appropriate. These decisions are made at regular JET Team Meetings and/or CUCDC Allocation Meetings. Final decisions are approved by the CUCDC Manager (Head of Service).

How are parents involved in the setting/school/college? How can I be involved?

We have 2 parent representatives on our Management Group. We have a HLTA with responsibility for Family Liaison who arranges social and support events to encourage parental involvement. We undertake regular Parent Consultations and use this information to directly influence service development. On our new website we will have a “You Said, We Did” feature.

Parents take a full and active part in all aspects of Portage and JET Groups and we meet termly with parents of children in the Assessment Nursery. Home-School Diaries and an app called MarvellousMe are 2 ways in which we maintain communication with those parents that we don’t get to see every day. We also have an open door policy and telephones in every classroom to make it easier for parents to ring us. We plan regular 'drop-in' days where parents/carers are invited to spend some time in the nursery with their children. These days sometimes have a theme such as an Easter Fun Day or Christmas Party Day.

We have a Parents Room and we are setting up a Parent Group to enable parents and carers to get to know and support each other.

Parents are key contributors from the very start of any EHC assessment process and are fully involved at all stages.

Page last reviewed: 09/11/2020


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