Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Rescuing A Generation Adrift, by Anne Fox, Trust Director

Communication is at the core of everything we do, and at the heart of all communication is language – words make up sentences which build into conversations. But what happens if you don’t possess those skills?

On 16th January 2013, we published A Generation Adrift showing that at least 10% of children in our schools don’t have adequate communication skills to allow them to learn well. Unless these children are identified and supported quickly, it can have a dramatic effect on their future lives. But identifying children who struggle with speech, language and communication can be tricky because it is such a complex subject. Early intervention is vital, whatever stage of education children and young people are at, and education practitioners need to be aware that children’s needs can change as they get older. Once a child has been identified as struggling, a whole host of interventions is available to support them and boost their skills.

Supporting language when a child is struggling can often be a ‘tweak’ to good practice mixed with solid knowledge of language development. We want all education practitioners and school staff to have this information to help them identify children who have difficulties. But more than just the skills to identify, we want them also to have at their fingertips evidence-based solutions to support the child.

A Generation Adrift marks the start of a series of resources launched by the Trust, beginning next month, which will support schools to develop a good communication environment while also providing interventions for children with SLCN. What Works – developed as a result of the recent Better Communication Research Programme (released in December 2012) – offers a database of tried-and-tested interventions which can be used to support children with SLCN. We will also be releasing the final report about the pilot of Talk of the Town, an integrated, community-led approach to supporting speech, language and communication in children and young people. These are practical ‘solutions’ to what research has shown is a growing problem.

If we don’t do something to tackle the issue of children with SLCN – which is the most prevalent childhood disability – then we risk these children falling behind their peers. Good spoken language skills are a strong predictor of later academic success – just 15% of young people with SLCN sitting GCSEs achieve 5 A*to C grades compared to an average 57% of all young people – and talk and interaction play a key role in children’s social development and learning. It helps young people to develop organisational, problem solving and evaluation skills, all of which are crucial skills for the classroom and beyond. Without communication skills children will struggle later in life and we risk a generation being left adrift.

You can download a PDF of A Generation Adrift here.

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Thursday, 17 January 2013

Supporting the changing educational landscape, by Robert Buckland MP

Today I had the honour of hosting The Communication Trust’s Reception in Parliament, which focussed on how schools can help meet the speech, language and communication needs of children and young people.

I was thrilled to be asked to speak as I have long been a fan and a supporter of what The Communication Trust is seeking to achieve. By using its collective expertise, the Trust supports the children’s workforce and commissioners and allows them to provide high quality provision of therapy and assistance. The way in which the Trust spreads good practice and awareness of speech, language and communication needs, whether they be in education or health, is something that I have long considered vitally important.

Being a parent of a child with speech, language and communication needs I have also seen at first-hand the importance of therapy to help young people overcome the obstacles that they face. I have also experienced the benefits that dedicated speech and language therapists can bring, and their importance not only in providing direct professional services but also in the training of other providers.

Speech, language and communication skills are growing ever more important as children and young people enter an increasingly competitive global workforce. They are also now a central part of Ofsted’s revised framework for school inspection, with ‘communication skills’ explicitly referred to as a parameter for inspection in two areas of judgement.

However, the Trust is today launching its latest thinkpiece, A Generation Adrift, which demonstrates that schools often face a challenge in locating the support required for their pupils with speech, language and communication needs, using evidence from the new Better Communication Research Programme report. The Communication Trust can offer schools a range of support to overcome these challenges and help them to support children and young people’s speech, language and communication.

In a changing educational landscape such as the one that we face today, the issue of children’s communication needs to be considered by an ever-wider range of actors. This includes, but is not limited to, Multi Chain Academies, Umbrella Academy chains, independent Academies, Learning Co-operatives, for profit and not for profit learning support agencies, and the wider commission community. There is, I believe, much good work already underway and I am confident that the ongoing work of The Communication Trust and the organisations which it represents will ensure that no child is left struggling with unidentified speech, language or communication difficulties.

You can find out more about Robert Buckland on his website.

A Generation Adrift can be downloaded here.