19 March 2020

Research roundup - March 2020

The latest research concerning children and young people's speech, language and communication includes significant new reports on mental health services, SEND support in schools, early language development and Developmental Language Disorder.

Mental health and wellbeing

Children’s Commissioners third annual report on the state of children’s mental health services (January 2020)

The report found that despite significant improvements over the past two years, there continues to be huge regional variation, fragmented provision of low-level services and too few children are getting the specialist help they need. 

Access to children and young people’s mental health services, Education Policy Institute (January 2020)

This report had findings similar to the children’s commissioner’s report: while in some areas there has been an apparent improvement in speed of access over recent years, there continues to be a serious problem for many young people in accessing services, and doing so in a timely way.

Early Learning and Child Wellbeing in England, OECD International (March 2020)

This study looks at how well five year old children develop in a range of skills in early cognitive and socio-emotional development. Cognitive development includes ‘emergent literacy skills’ which are oral language, listening comprehension and phonological awareness.

  • Reading to children 5-7 times a week is strongly associated with emergent literacy skills
  • Socioeconomic status strongly associated with emergent literacy. 
  • Emergent literacy and numeracy were strongly related, and had a strong correlation with self-regulation and socio-emotional skills – i.e. children use a range of skills to help them express themselves, understand and interact
Special Education Needs and Disability

Does Ofsted’s new inspection framework support SEND learners?, Driver Youth Trust & Nasen (2020)

A review of a sample of 766 inspection reports using the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF). Reports are shorter and more accessible, but with a tendency to lack detail. The majority include mention of SEND but with no clear correlation between feedback on SEND and the overall grading suggesting a lack of analysis. Importantly, when provision is rate good, there still may be poor SEND. 

The time is now: Addressing missed opportunities for Special Educational Needs Support and Coordination in our schools, Nasen, NEU and Bath Spa University (January 2020) 

This looks at the impact of a previous national survey of SENCos in 2018, one year on. Its findings echo the previous report, finding that often SENCo time was often unprotected – with this year SENCos increasingly likely to be asked to undertake additional unrelated duties. The amount of paperwork can mean less time developing the skills of teachers to support children with SEN – something that SENCos overwhelmingly felt was highest priority. 

Language in the early years

Study of Early Education and Development (SEED): Impact Study on Early Education Use and Child Outcomes up to age five years, Department for Education (February 2020)

A longitudinal study which looks at the impact of early childhood education and care (ECEC), the home environment and parenting on cognitive and socio-emotional development. This latest report looks at outcomes for children at the age of 5. Informal ECEC (with friends and relatives) between age 2 and the start of school was associated with higher child verbal ability. 

Using Research Tools to Improve Language in the Early Years, EEF URLEY (February 2020)

This evaluation of a 5 day professional development programme for teachers in nursery and YR found children in schools undertaking the programme did not make additional progress in language development compared to children in control schools. The programme did, however, have consistent positive impacts on the quality of teaching. 

Developmental Language Disorder

In February, a set of papers was published by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in a special edition looking at the changes to terminology for children’s language disorders. The main points are summarised in a blog by Dorothy Bishop. 

Establishing premises for inter-professional collaborative practice in school: inclusion, difference and influence, Gallagher et al (2020), Disability and Rehabilitation

The study looked at the views of researchers, practitioners and parents on support for language disorder in school. The authors proposed a shift from remediating deficits of the child, to affecting change in classroom practice through interprofessional collaboration. 

Language, literacy and cognitive skills of young adults with developmental language disorder (DLD), Botting (2020), International Journal of Language and Communication Difficulties

This study reports on the latest analysis of data from children involved a longitudinal study tracking children with developmental language disorder (DLD) from age 7 through to adulthood. The latest tests carried out at age 24, find that young adults with DLD continue to perform more poorly than their peers on formal oral and written language tests, but with some variation in non-verbal skills. 

Positive Aspects of Emotional Competence in Preventing Internalizing Symptoms in Children with and without Developmental Language Disorder: A Longitudinal Approach, Samson et al (2020), Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

This study found that emotion awareness may be a protective factor in the development of internalizing symptoms such as social anxiety in children with and without DLD. Prevention and intervention programs focusing on increasing emotion awareness may help children with DLD.

…..and finally, an important report about health inequality in England

Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On. Department of Health (March 2020)

The report finds that stark inequalities in health and educational attainment have worsened over the last decade. It notes that, since 2010, "evidence has shown that children in families with low incomes do better at schools in more deprived areas than they do in wealthier areas". There are several mentions of the association between poor language and disadvantage. The report calls for action across the life course but gives highest priority to giving children the best start in life.

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