Speech, language and communication needs going unmet

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

Thousands of children are growing up with unmet speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), including many from our poorest families.

A report from the Communication Trust is warning that up to 50 per cent of children who start school in the most disadvantaged areas will have SLCN.

Meanwhile, 75 per cent of children who experience poverty persistently throughout their early years are below average in language development.

And overall, 7.6 per cent of children in early primary will have developmental language disorders – despite this only 2.6 per cent are identified by the SEND system.

And there are clear knock-on effects into secondary education. The report – entitled Talking About a Generation – highlights one study in a disadvantaged area of Manchester showing that 50 per cent of 13-year-olds had language difficulties severe enough to meet criteria for SEN Statements.

It also warns that SLCN pupils do not tend to “catch-up” as they get older. Figures show that 19.8 per cent of SLCN pupils attain five or more GCSEs at A* to C including English and maths compared with 63 per cent of all pupils.

The report says that at secondary level, vocabulary skills at 13 strongly predict GCSE results at 15 – in some subjects more strongly than socio-economic background.

However, it adds: “For those at secondary age who need specific help with speech, language and communication, the evidence suggests that only one in 10 children with SLCN have access to a speech and language therapist.”

The report is calling on the government to consult on a new plan to give children’s centres a key role in SLCN support and it also wants to see mandatory SLCN training as part of initial teacher training.

At secondary level, the report urges ministers to include a focus on oracy in curriculum and accountability frameworks “to ensure functional skills” and “preparation for employment”.

Octavia Holland, director of the Communication Trust, which works to support young people with SLCN, said: “Our report is a wake-up call about the impact of social disadvantage on speech, language and communication. Children’s needs – including some of the most disadvantaged – are being missed, and the consequences for individuals and for society are profound.

“It is entirely possible to break the link between language difficulties and disadvantage, with the right support for parents, in early education and in school. Talking About a Generation provides a route map for doing just that.”

For more details or to download the report, visit http://bit.ly/2nmmj4q

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