Primary and secondary school teachers

How to support children's speech, language and communication in schools

We have put together a series of top tips for teachers who are supporting a child with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), in the classroom. These are recommended indicators of good practice in supporting all children with SLCN in both primary and secondary provisions. These are also available as a checklist here.


  • Primary School Checklist

    Primary School Checklist

    The following features demonstrate good practice for supporting children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN): 

    • Visual support systems such as visual timetables, targets on the desk, targets shown on the whiteboard, prompt cards (for example a card, with a picture, to remind a child to listen for their name) and photos
    • A classroom environment that is not too cluttered and where equipment is clearly marked with a label saying what it is
    • Teaching that incorporates use of visual and tactile approaches including use of real objects, practical activities, pictures and video
    • Staff using non-verbal communication to support what they are saying, for example gesture, pointing – or maybe even signing.
    • Careful seating arrangements that allow a child with SLCN to be near the front and facing the teacher, for example tables placed in a horseshoe shape or tables that can be easily moved around.
    • Children given time to respond to allow time for thinking. Time for planning work is also allocated before children are required to begin writing, for example in literacy children are given extra time to think and perhaps talk about the key things to include in a story such as the main characters, what is going to happen. Story planners for children to be able to record ideas in preparation are also helpful
    • Strategies are used to ensure a child is paying attention, for example the teacher says their name before giving an instruction
    • Opportunities for a child to work at their own level, following their own task or targets if needed. This might mean that a child works on slightly different work, at the right level for them, with some extra support from a teaching assistant
    • Additional resources are available if needed, for example IT software, alternative recording sheets with less information or where less writing is needed, work planning sheets
    • Any teaching assistant has the necessary skills and knowledge to support children with SLCN. This means they will have received some training about support for pupils with this type of difficulty and have been given information about SLCN in the classroom by a speech and language therapist
    • Evidence that teaching staff are aware of speech and language therapy (SLT) goals and these are incorporated into lessons wherever possible, for example, science vocabulary that a child finds difficult is practised before the lesson and repeated as part of the activities during the lesson.
  • Secondary School Checklist

    The following features demonstrate good practice for supporting young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN):

    • Good use of visual supports such as gesture, drawings, prompt cards (for example a reminder to put up your hand before calling out), photos and, where appropriate, symbols/signs. These can all be used to make aspects of the day clearer including the timetable, what a pupil will be learning in that lesson, expected behaviour, key vocabulary and information, the sequence of steps within an activity, names of equipment and where it is stored, etc
    • The teaching assistant (TA) has the necessary skills and knowledge to work with a pupil with SLCN because they will have received some training about how to support pupils with this type of difficulty. The TA can support when needed while encouraging independent work, for example, they might remind a pupil about taking a turn, giving an answer or using a chart but not do it for them
    • Pupils with SLCN are seated near the teacher. The teacher speaks facing the class and stops speaking when writing on the whiteboard. Information is left on the whiteboard long enough for pupils to read and understand
    • All pupils are encouraged to ask questions and seek clarification
    • The ways of supporting visually that a pupil finds useful are used consistently by different teachers in different classes – so expect to see similar approaches or strategies in different lessons. For example, information on what will happen during the lesson is written in language which pupils understand, with visual support such as pictures used where needed. This visual plan for each lesson is referred to during teacher introduction and updated as the lesson progresses to help pupils with SLCN to understand e.g. ‘this is where we are now’
    • Information is presented in a variety of ways. Teaching that incorporates use of visual and tactile approaches including use of real objects, practical activities, pictures, video is used if needed to ensure pupils understand
    • Teachers do not talk for the whole lesson and avoid using double meanings, idioms like ‘pull your socks up’ and long complicated sentences. If they use difficult words or sentences, these are explained.
    • Specific words, relating to each subject are planned in advance of the lesson. This means they can be taught before the lesson (pre-teaching) to pupils with SLCN if needed and there is repetition and lots of opportunities to hear new vocabulary
    • Support for study skills like taking notes, answering questions in exams, revising and organising your homework. This might include support for written work, e.g. a framework for writing a plan for longer pieces of writing (a narrative framework). If needed, there is time for specific teaching of study and organisational skills. IT support is evident in the classroom and used by pupils to support their learning
    • Systems to ensure that information is shared efficiently about pupils with SLCN to ease transition to another class/school. For example, use of a communication passport, which is a way of recording important information about a pupil, their strengths and communication needs and ways of supporting these.
    • Flexibility within the curriculum for pupils requiring individualised programmes, such as flexible timetabling, study time, homework club, small group work and individualised work.
    • School ‘rules’ and ‘charters’ are written in simple, symbol or visual photos form so that pupils can understand them
    • Quiet space is available for time-out or individual study
    • Systems to help pupils to mix socially, e.g. lunchtime clubs, organised activities, buddying (where a pupil has a specific friend who helps them to mix with others if they want to), peer mentoring, social skills groups and use of a quiet area
    • The school celebrates the success of all pupils – both with academic achievement but also social or behavioural successes. This is evident from a tour of the school as the work of all pupils, including the less able ones, is included in wall displays etc. You might also hear teachers praising pupils for how they have managed working in a group, or ask a question – as well as for when they get an answer right
    • The school is laid out well so pupils with SLCN can find their way round easily, for example subject rooms are colour-coded.

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