The importance of spoken language and the impact of poor language

Despite the crucial nature of spoken language for better academic outcomes, social skills and friendships and employment, there is no statutory requirement to report on progress in spoken language after five years of age
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Given what is known about the impact of spoken language on academic success, schools should regularly monitor progress in spoken language in order to ensure pupils are reaching language milestones as expected and identify when further support is needed. There are several tools for monitoring spoken language available including:

  • Communicating the Curriculum – a free, downloadable, practical resource which will help primary schools to define and monitor children's progress in spoken language.
  • Progression Tools – tools to identify children who may be struggling to develop their speech, language and communication skills. They can also be used to track progression of these skills over time or following interventions. Available for Early Years, Primary and  Secondary.
  • Language Link – online packages for screening the language skills of children throughout Primary and Secondary.

Where children have received targeted or specialist support for their speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) these tools can also be used to measure the impact of the support being provided.

Some programmes offering support for children with delayed language include Tracker tools, allowing schools to monitor the impact of the programme and identify students requiring further support.

How could schools most effectively monitor progress in spoken language, given the lack of statutory requirement?

This factsheet shared as part of the No Pens Day Wednesday campaign has some helpful ideas. Also, take some time to explore the examples of tools for monitoring spoken language listed above.

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Addressing the issues around measuring impact

The missing children

Many children with speech, language and communication needs do not have their needs accurately identified, or they are identified late. Questions schools should ask themselves include:

 

  • What systems are in place in our school to ensure children have their SLCN identified early, and appropriate support put in place

    • Screening tools used regularly and routinely
    • Use of prevalence information to ensure understanding of the likely numbers of children who will be struggling
    • A focus on communication, speech and language throughout the school
    • Information about typical language development available to all
  • What training do staff have to ensure they are aware of the signs of SLCN?

    • A whole school approach to support spoken language
    • Observations and consequent feedback include consideration of communication supportive practice
    • Inset training regularly includes information about speech, language and communication/SLCN
    • Use of the Speech, Language and Communication Framework to identify training needs and routes to continued professional development
  • How are specialist services used to support our school with identification of need?

    • Understanding of staff about who needs additional support and when. The Cracking the Code posters include useful information for Primary and Secondary schools
    • Close links with specialist services, including training and mentoring opportunities
The issue of identification has been successfully addressed in the school in this case study. The Cracking the Code posters for Primary and Secondary are available to download here.

 

Spoken language is not prioritsed in the curriculum

Consequently, schools need to make support for spoken language a priority themselves. Questions for schools to ask include:

 

  • How do we ensure spoken language is prioritised across our school?

    • Systems in place to track spoken language
    • Regular training and updates, keeping spoken language and its impact across the curriculum high on the agenda
    • A lead in school for speech, language and communication
    • Spoken language and SLCN included in key school policies
  • How do we measure progress in spoken language?

    • Appropriate tools used to monitor children's spoken language
    • Regular monitoring of children's progress in spoken language
    • A policy for monitoring progress in spoken language
    • Progress in spoken language shared regularly with Governors, parents, Ofsted
Read this case study about a school ensuring spoken language features highly in their setting and how they monitor progress in speech, language and communication.

 

Staff do not feel confident in identifying and supporting SLCN

Teachers recognise the importance of children’s language but feel under-confident in teaching and assessing children’s speech, language and communication, and in identifying and supporting those with SLCN. In a recent survey 59% of respondents reported having little or no initial training in identifying and supporting children with SLCN. Questions schools should ask include:

 

  • How do we ensure staff understand SLCN and how to identify children who are struggling?

    • Access to external training and information about spoken language development and SLCN
    • Screening tools and checklists used routinely to identify those who are struggling
    • Information available to all staff about typical language development and ways to measure children’s language skills
    • Regular inset training about spoken language and the crucial role it plays across the curriculum. This should include information about what a child with SLCN will look like
    • Mentoring for less experienced staff from a language lead in the school
  • How do we ensure the children in our school get the support they need for their SLCN?

    • A three wave approach to supporting children with SLCN is in place
    • Use of targeted interventions for children who are struggling
    • Staff have understanding of SLCN, and of appropriate support for all children, children with delayed language and children with long-term SLCN
    • Close links with specialist services and clear referral routes

This case study demonstrates the way one school ensures identification and appropriate support for children with SLCN in their setting

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