09 July 2021
An estimated *1.5 million children and young people could be left behind, if more action is not taken to support them with their speaking and understanding of language, after missing school due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That is the suggested outcome of a new survey of teachers published by I CAN, the children’s communication charity.
Speaking Up for the Covid Generation asked primary and secondary school teachers across England, Scotland, and Wales about the impact Covid 19 has had on their pupils speaking and understanding. The findings show that the majority of teachers are worried about children being able to catch up with their speaking and understanding.
This breaks down to:
Teachers were asked to estimate the number of children they were concerned about – and in aggregate - this equated to 1.5 million children across England, Scotland and Wales. Among teachers who have pupils who are behind with their speaking or understanding, not being able to talk face-to-face with their friends (70%) and the overuse of tablets/phones and computers (69%) were the two biggest reasons that teachers believed their pupils were behind.
Despite the government introducing a recovery premium to support children and young people to catch up with their education after missing nearly half a year from the classroom, most teachers were critical of the government’s efforts:
The report recommends some urgent measures such as Government extending the speech and language help provided to Reception classes to all ages, as well as longer-term measures to improve teacher training on speech and language and assessing children in speaking and understanding language as regularly as other skills such as writing, reading and arithmetic.
Jane Harris, I CAN Chief Executive said:
“Children and young people’s development have been hit hard by this pandemic. For 1.5 million children to be struggling to be able to speak and to understand what is being said to them should be a wake-up call to Government and the education sector. We need to put in place emergency support so that the Covid generation do not suffer long-term.
“Our survey shows that teachers in the classroom are not able to support the children who need their help because the support the Government is offering are only for 4- and 5-year-olds. We need an education recovery plan that helps children of all ages to speak and understand language. Without this, how can they learn other subjects, get a job or have decent mental health and relationships?”
The survey concluded by asking teachers what training they had received to support children struggling with their speaking and understanding at the below stages of their training/ career:
Speaking Up for the Covid Generation has been produced in partnership with Afasic, Better Communication CIC, Commtap, Naplic, Talking Mats, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and, Voice 21.
Notes to editors
For media enquiries contact Simon Walsh, I CAN press office on 07824 446989 or Neill Young, I CAN Head of Communications on 020 7239 0007.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1002 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th May - 2nd June 2021. The survey was carried out online.
Teachers surveyed estimated the percentage of children affected were subjected to a mid-point interval analysis. Using a pupil population estimate of England, Scotland, and Wales of (*9,190,799 primary and secondary pupils) this equated to 1.5 million children.
*This combined total figure for England, Scotland and Wales was equated from:
The key findings
About I CAN
I CAN is the UK’s children's communication charity. We specialise in helping children develop the speech, language, and communication skills they need to thrive in a 21st- century world.
Children and young people can fail to reach their potential because communication difficulties are often neglected, mistaken for something else or not noticed at all. I CAN's mission is that no child should be left out or left behind because of a difficulty speaking or understanding.
For further information on I CAN’s work visit ican.org.uk or follow on Twitter @ICANcharity and Facebook at facebook.com/icantalk.
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