This is an independent review into speech and language provision requested by Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary and Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary and undertaken by John Bercow MP who examined provision for children and young people with speech, language and communications needs.
The review makes suggestions on how young people with speech and language difficulties can be supported.
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said:
"It's critically important that young people with language disabilities get specialist intervention as early as possible so that they can play an active and fulfilled role in society throughout their entire lives.
"The Government has done a great deal to invest in language support in recent years but I know parents want us to do more. That means local authorities, schools and the NHS working even closer together."
The review has stated that:
"The ability to communicate is an essential life skill for all children and young people and it underpins a child's social, emotional and educational development. Evidence illustrates that there is insufficient understanding of the centrality of speech, language and communication among policy makers and commissioners nationally and locally, professionals and service providers, and sometimes parents and families themselves. It follows that insufficient priority is attached to addressing SLCN.
It organises its recommendations within five themes:
- Communication is crucial;
- Early identification and intervention are essential;
- A continuum of services designed around the family is needed;
- Joint working is critical; and
- The current system is characterised by high variability and a lack of equity.
These are considered in more depth in the report but the following conclusions are worthy of note:
"The current system for providing support to children and young people with SLCN is routinely described by families as a ‘postcode lottery', particularly in the context of their access to speech and language therapy (SLT). Despite the hard work and commitment of many professionals in health and children's services, the needs of many children and young people are still not being met."
"In planning, commissioning and delivering universal, targeted and specialist provision, it is critical that health services and children's services, including schools, work together in support of children and young people with SLCN. No single agency can deliver any one of the five Every Child Matters outcomes for children and young people by working in isolation. Operating in separate silos produces misunderstandings, causes divisions and can be bewildering or infuriating to parents."
"In this report, we examine the difficulties faced by groups with particularly severe or on-going needs that are not currently being met. To address the needs of children and young people who use Assistive and Augmentative Communication aids (AAC) we recommend that the Government develops a ‘hub and spoke' model of regional provision, coordinated by a national organisation. Moreover, we recommend that on appointment the Communication Champion should immediately evaluate the effectiveness of local areas' AAC provision, and report findings to the Communication Council." [Recommendation 27]
"We recommend that the Government ensures that good quality training, such as that provided through the Inclusion Development Programme (IDP), is available to everyone in the children's workforce, including health and education professionals, to develop their skills in relation to speech, language and communication. This should include training for staff wishing to specialise in working with children and young people with more severe and complex SLCN."
For teacher educators; the following may be of particular interest:
"We further recommend that the standards for Qualified Teacher Status ensure that students develop a better understanding of children and young people's SLCN and of how to address those needs." [Recommendation 22]
"We recommend that DCSF includes speech, language and communication, both as a core requirement and as an elective module, in the new Masters in Teaching and Learning." [Recommendation 23]
"We further recommend that the Government makes as much data as possible available about the educational attainment of children and young people with SLCN to allow it to be accountable for progress and to encourage improvement in provision[Recommendation 39]. Data should be readily understandable and accessible to all stakeholders with an interest in the outcomes for children and young people with SLCN."
We will provide more comment on the review and responses to the review in due course.