High quality inclusive, integrated childcare and early years education is at the heart of all we offer.

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The Willows has been here since 1973 and started life as a small nursery for children with moderate learning difficulties. Over the years it has evolved to incorporate day care.  It has a long history of working with young children and families throughout the City of Portsmouth.

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More than 60 people make up the team at Willows. A team of qualified early years practitioners led by teachers work together with many other agencies to provide a range of services for families.

Meet the Willows' team


Press Release – IMMEDIATE RELEASE 29.03.17
Willows Centre for Children in Portsmouth has been highly commended in the Early Years Setting of the Year category at an awards ceremony in London for its continued commitment to developing its children’s communication skills. The 2017 Shine a Light Awards, run by Pearson in partnership with The Communication Trust, were hosted by singer and theatre star Gareth Gates.
The 2017 Shine a Light Awards is a national awards scheme that celebrates innovative work and excellent practice in supporting children and young people’s communication development.
Willows Centre for Children is a 120-place nursery school with many children having additional needs. Speech, language and communication is therefore embedded within daily practice at Willows, with the Centre being supported by speech and language therapist and a dedicated full-time speech and language therapy assistant.
Makaton is used throughout the Centre with children from three months to five years with dedicated Makaton champions based within each room to explain any new words/actions. Parents are also encouraged to attend the Willows Centre to acquire basic Makaton knowledge and skills.
The nursery also uses a variety of other methods to help children reach their full potential, from the Derbyshire Language Scheme and Shape Coding, to Makaton Signing and Symbols and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).
Margaret Dunford, Head teacher at Willows Nursery, said: “It is wonderful for us to be recognised by this national award for the impact we have on young children’s speech, language and communication.”
Gareth Gates, host of the 2017 Shine a Light Awards, said: “The dedication of Willows Centre for Children is outstanding. Being able to communicate with confidence is often taken for granted but for many it is an everyday struggle. I have found my stutter crippling at times but I have learnt ways to manage my difficulties with the support of others.
“It is heart-warming to know that other children and young people across England are getting the support they need to develop and achieve goals that may not have been possible otherwise. Willows Centre for Children should be extremely proud of its award.”
Alternative therapies are also used at Willows Centre for Children with the specialist teaching assistants leading programmes that involve the child’s key person. Therapies such as music therapy is used with some children who may not be ready for other forms of communication.
The nursery also works with occupational therapists, educational psychologists, specialist health visitors and a school nurse to ensure the children’s needs are recognised and addressed.
Chris Hall, Director of Clinical Assessment at Pearson, said: “Congratulations to Willows Centre for Children for its highly commended achievement. The work it has undertaken to meet a wide variety of different needs is excellent and is a great example for others.
“This is the fifth year we have run the Awards and we remain blown away by the standard of applications. They give an amazing insight into the unsung work that is taking place across the country to improve the speech, language and communication skills of children and young people.”
Octavia Holland, Director of The Communication Trust, said: “Congratulations to Willows Centre for Children and everyone who triumphed at the Shine a Light Awards. They have shown what can be achieved when expertise, enthusiasm and dedication is given to children and young people who struggle to communicate. These Awards highlight the very best practice that is taking place in settings across the country. We would like to say a huge thank you to Pearson for their long-standing support.”


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