Here you will find everything you need to review what you already do in your setting and to decide on actions to take for your Early Years Commitment. The actions are separated into five priority areas; you'll be asked to select one action per area.

The planning stage is the crucial first step on your journey. Start by reviewing what you already do.

The 5 priority areas

Before you decide on your Action Plan, it's important to understand what you already do well, and what areas you might need to develop.

Once you have reviewed what you do, read more about the five priority areas to decide on your actions, and then start your Action Plan!

Priority area one: Leadership

Why is this a priority area?

We all know that leadership influences everything in an early years setting. By ensuring your Commitment is driven from the leadership team or setting manager, we will ensure policy and practice cascade throughout your setting and to the wider community.

How does this link to the 2014 SEND Code of Practice?

The Commitment supports early years leaders and managers to think strategically about communication and reinforces as the Code does, the essential role the leadership team or setting manager has in leading effective practice in identifying and securing effective support for young children with SLCN.

What are the principles we're trying to achieve?
  • Our leadership team understand that communication is important.
  • Our leadership team know that there are strategies to support communication.
  • Our leadership team is committed to embedding policy and practice within our setting that reflects the importance of communication.
What are the four action options for leaders?

You will need to pick one of the four actions below:

  1. Appoint Communication Champions (guidance note: If your setting is large enough to separate children into a baby room, preschool room etc we recommend one Champion per room).
  2. Include actions around communication in your setting's development plan
  3. Dedicate a leadership team meeting to communication.
  4. Adopt a strategy for identifying children who are struggling with communication.

Priority area two: Workforce development

Why is this a priority area?

Staff are the greatest resource in any early years setting. We know many early years practitioners don’t feel confident in supporting communication, particularly when children are struggling. There is evidence from research and practice reporting positive outcomes when early years practitioners are able to embed communication supportive strategies into practice to support early language learning.

By providing professional development and supporting greater knowledge and development of skills, staff can maximise opportunities for children's early language learning in their setting.

How does this link to the 2014 SEND Code of Practice?

The Commitment provides actions, tools and resources for the professional development of all staff in supporting the speech, language and communication development of all children including those with SLCN.

What are the principles we are trying to achieve?
  • Our staff are aware of the importance of speech, language and communication.
  • Our staff are building their understanding of speech, language and communication.
  • Our staff are developing their practice in supporting children's early language development.
What are the four action options for workforce development?

You will need to pick one of the four actions below:

  1. Include a session on speech, language and communication in a team meeting. NB: If you're a small Childminding setting, hold a session at a Childminding network group.
  2. Identify what communication focused professional development activities key members of staff will undertake.
  3. Implement a whole setting strategy to support early language development across the setting and reflect on it as a staff team.
  4. Set up a Communication Innovation Bank where practitioners share activities and ideas they find useful.

Priority area three: Communication - friendly settings

Why is this a priority area?

Creating a communication friendly environment for children in your setting encourages the development of early language and communication skills in all children and creates a more inclusive environment for those who may be struggling to learn language. This is best done by the way we talk and interact as adults, through the opportunities we give children to communicate and learn language and by the physical environment they learn and play within.

How does this link to the 2014 SEND Code of Practice?

The Commitment provides guidance on how to achieve high quality support for learning that promotes early language development, with particular focus on strategies that remove barriers to learning and promote a language rich environment for young children.

What are the principles we are trying to achieve?
  • We allow young children lots of time to communicate and acknowledge that this may not yet be through verbal means.
  • We provide lots of opportunities for early language learning in our setting.
  • We want all of our children to develop their speech, language and communication skills to the best of their ability.
What are the four action options for communication-friendly settings?

You will need to pick one of the four actions below:

  • Choose a communication supportive strategy to embed into everyday practice across your setting.
  • Introduce a visual support strategy in your setting (visual timeline, use of photos and symbols, Makaton).
  • Make language learning activities part of your everyday routine in your setting.
  • Run a session for parents and carers to talk about the importance of early language, the home environment with tips and activities for them to try out at home.

Priority area four: Supporting children with SLCN

Why is this a priority area?

It can be difficult to spot to spot SLCN in young children and practitioners report they are often not too confident in knowing how best to support these children. Often we see young children with poor concentration or listening skills, with challenging or passive behaviour, who may struggle to play imaginatively or with others, and these can often be early signs that a child may be experiencing difficulties with their speech, language and communication development.

We know a lot about what works to support SLCN; the What Works database can help practitioners find the right evidence-based interventions and specialists can advise on the most appropriate strategies.

How does this link to the 2014 SEND Code of Practice?

The Commitment gives settings the resources and guidance to develop both the policy and practice to deliver support to children with SLCN.

What are the principles we are trying to achieve?
  • We’re all watching out for children who have or may be at risk of SLCN.
  • We're checking out what we are doing already for children with SLCN. 
  • We’re working towards best ways to support children who have or may be at risk of SLCN.
What are the four action options for supporting children with SLCN?

You will need to pick one of the four actions below:

  1. Raise awareness of speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) by accessing factsheets on SLCN and disseminating to all staff.
  2. Use identification guidance, tools and checklists in our setting.
  3. Collate the interventions across our setting and our early years networks to find out what others are doing to support children with SLCN in the early years.
  4. Read the Early Years Commissioning Guidance document from The Communication Trust.

Priority area five: Engagement with parents, families and other early years professionals

Why is this a priority area?

We know from research how important parental engagement is for young children's learning and school readiness. Early years settings and Children's Centres are often the centre of a community, with strong networks and links across other early years providers, teams and agencies.

Early language underpins all aspects of a child's non-physical development and is key to school readiness. The home learning environment and the activities that parents engage their children in have also been shown to be crucial to a child's early learning and language development.

How does this link to the 2014 SEND Code of Practice?

The Commitment supports early years providers to involve parents in discussions and support their children’s progress, a key principle of the Code. It also helps settings to prepare pupils for their transition into school.

What are the principles we are trying to achieve?
  • Our community and early years networks know that communication is important to us.
  • We’re asking our community and networks to get involved.
  • We're sharing and seeking out examples of best practice across our community and early years networks.
What are the four action options for engaging with parents, families and other early years professionals?

You will need to pick one of the four actions below:

  1. Share information on communication with parents.
  2. Invite people from your early years network to come to your setting and discuss communication and early language (e.g. Health Visitors, Children's Centre team, Toddler Group staff)
  3. Ask to visit other early years settings or childminders that are demonstrating best practice in supporting children's speech, language and communication development.
  4. Include communication as a topic at a parent workshop or information session.
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