28 January 2022

I CAN Responds to Times Education Commission’s Interim Report

I CAN, the children and young people's communication charity, responds to the interim report from the Times Education Commission which reveals there is a call from the Business sector to overhaul the education system to better prepare future generations for the world of work in the digital age.

“We welcome the report and the issues it raises about the current education system and the business need for children and young people to be better equipped for the modern workplace with a focus on digital, design and engineering. It is important however, that any overhaul of the education system gets the basics right. The report is right to say that education does not adequately prepare young people for the world of work, but one key skill has been left out – the ability to speak and understand language.

Year on year, employers report that communication is the skill that is most frequently lacking in new recruits to the workplace, school leavers and graduates. Recent changes in education have resulted in less of a focus on teaching these skills, potentially disadvantaging young people who need the space, time, and support to develop the speaking and listening skills needed for employment.  

Communication skills cannot be underestimated; substantial research evidence links good language and literacy development with long-term achievements in education, better social-emotional skills, good health, improved employment prospects and more opportunities for social mobility. Conversely, poor language skills and literacy are associated with poorer education, worse skills, bad health, lower employment prospects and higher risks of offending. These are, of course, confounded with wider societal issues around poverty, health, housing, and family services.

The Times Education Commission report also highlights tens of thousands of pupils are believed to be persistently absent from school and others are struggling to catch up due to the pandemic. This worryingly echoes the findings from our own report,Speaking Up for the Covid Generation, that found nearly 1.5 million children are struggling with their speaking and understanding skills. 62% of primary school teachers and 60% of secondary school teachers surveyed were concerned that children currently behind will not be able to catch up. 63% of teachers also felt that the UK Government is not providing enough support to help children with their speaking and understanding.  

The Government must address this urgently and ensure that sufficient support is provided to those who are behind because of the pandemic. Longer term, actions to support children’s speaking and understanding must be central to the Government’s forthcoming review of the system for children with special educational needs and disability and the Schools White Paper.

I CAN also stands ready to work with partners in schools, local authorities, and the voluntary sector to support children’s language development.  It is only by working together that we can help children and young people to fulfil their potential.

We very much welcome the opportunity to submit evidence and written submissions in advance of the Commission’s final recommendations, which are due to be published in the summer.”

Carol Payne, I CAN Interim Chief Executive

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