28 April 2021

Our new CEO says that today’s report on oracy shows Government plans for catch-up are inadequate

On Wednesday (April 28th), we saw the publication of the Oracy All-Party Parliamentary Group Oracy Inquiry report on how to help close the language gap and improve the speaking skills of future generations of school children. Oracy - the ability to express oneself through spoken language -is essential for all children, alongside more in-depth support for children with specific communication problems. We wanted to contribute to the inquiry because we want to make sure the problems faced by the most disadvantaged children are recognised by everyone that matters: Governments, local policy-makers, schools, parents and carers.

School closures during the pandemic have had an overwhelmingly negative impact on the spoken language development of disadvantaged students compared with their peers. Even before covid, disadvantaged children were twice as likely to have problems with speech and language.   Covid has hurt them in two ways. Many will have been cut off from childminders, nurseries and schools. In ‘normal’ times, they could have got help in those places to help them catch up with their peers. And at the same time, they may have had less opportunity to practice talking at home.

There is a real risk that this country could see an entire generation of children struggling to talk unless the Government acts now.  This pandemic has led to children of all ages missing out on months and months of practising their talking skills in school, yet Government has only so far offered extra support for reception class children. Children of all ages have missed out on months of school – they all deserve support to catch-up. 

It is encouraging to see the inquiry place importance on greater parental engagement around oracy to ensure parents are supported to understand the importance of speech, language and communication. And that schools should support children’s families to engage in a structured talk at home. At I CAN, we have decades of experience of working with families in this way – and we know the difference it can make.

As the Oracy Inquiry report highlights, schools must ensure that they work with pupils’ families so they understand what they can do to support their children to  There is a long-held belief that children develop the language skills they need in the early years, and thus language is ‘sorted’ by the time they reach school. At I CAN, we believe that language skills must be encouraged to continue to develop right through school and into adulthood.

It will be a national disgrace if we do not ensure that more support is given to children, of all ages,  with their speaking and understanding. If we don’t, we will be failing them.  How can a child do well at school, make friends or find a job if they do not have these vital skills?

Jane Harris, I CAN Chief Executive

I CAN’S Talk Boost is proven to help children with delayed language. For more details visit https://ican.org.uk/talk-boost/

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