First Opportunities Charity special needs pre-school

Very special educational opportunities, for local youngsters with special needs

by Fiona Morgan on behalf of First Opportunities, June 2015

First Opportunities New Forest - garden


FIRST OPPORTUNITIES is an independent charity providing therapeutic play and education for babies and young children with special needs.

Our pre-school is in a playroom on the site of Ashley Junior School, only a few miles away from Lymington, and we offer places to children from all across the New Forest.

The charity was founded 40 years ago when volunteers provided respite care for children with special needs. Since then, we have developed into a skilled professional team of key-workers providing therapeutic guided play to over 1,000 children since 1974.

Our children

The children coming to us have a wide range of physical and learning difficulties. Some children’s needs are severe and complex; some children may simply need extra help with a developmental delay. Over the years, we have helped children with a variety of conditions – for example, cerebral palsy, autism, Down’s syndrome and conditions that delay the essentials of communication.

How we help

Each child is assessed at entry and an individual play programme is then devised. Periodic assessments lead to programme revisions to achieve the best outcomes. Play stimulates a child’s physical and learning development and improves concentration in a happy, caring and fun filled environment.

Structured group play builds social confidence and challenges the child and we find that when the children play alongside children with similar problems, they are encouraged to achieve more together.

Staff ratio

We provide care on a ‘key-worker to child’ ratio of ‘one to one’ or ‘one to two’, depending upon the needs of the child.

Days of the week 

The pre-school is open during school terms.  Our “First Steps” group (for babies and children up to 3) is held on Monday and Wednesday mornings and “Second Steps” (for 3 years up to school age) is on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

First Opportunities New Forest - playshed

Contact Us for a discussion or visit

If you would like to contact us to discuss your child’s needs or to arrange a visit, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone us on 01425 629632 (office open during pre-school hours or leave a message)


It costs over £60,000 a year to run First Opportunities. Approximately 25% comes in statutory grants; for the other 75% we rely on the generosity of individuals, various voluntary organizations, businesses and churches etc. We are so grateful to the many local individuals and groups who have raised funds for our children.

If you think that you could help, whether it be

• one-off donation
• small regular payment by standing order or
• organizing a fundraising event

....we would love to hear from you!


We are a registered charity (Number 299671), run by a committee of voluntary trustees. We shall particularly be looking for a new treasurer in due course. If you think that you have the necessary skills and enthusiasm and would be interested in joining us, please do get in touch. Enhanced DBS clearance will be required.

Contact us by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone us on 01425 629632 (office open during pre-school hours or leave a message)

Article written by Fiona Morgan on behalf of

June 2015


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