School language programme boosts children’s reading

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An evaluation of a pilot project led by children’s communication charity I CAN has found that a whole school approach to supporting children’s speech can result in an average 50 per cent increase in progress in reading skills.

The report, released today by children’s communication charity I CAN, reveals the extent to which A Chance to Talk met the speech, language and communication needs of 8,000 children aged from four to seven-years-old.

A Chance to Talk offers primary schools ways to work together locally to meet the speech, language and communication needs of their pupils, and to identify and support children who are struggling.

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It is based on findings from a pilot of the initiative, developed by I CAN and the Communication Trust with Department for Education funding, which took place in schools across four areas in England between 2010 and 2012.

The report shows that children who took part in the pilot and had delayed language made, on average, three times the ‘normal rate of progress’ in language development of between nine and 18 months after a ten week ‘Talk Boost’ intervention. The Talk Boost intervention sees teaching assistants deliver small group activities three times a week, focusing on listening and attention, vocabulary, storytelling and conversations.

Up to 80 per cent of children with delayed language moved into the ‘typical’ range of language development, helping to narrow the gap between them and their peers.

According to the report, children with speech, language and communication needs found learning in the classroom easier and were noticeably more confident and sociable.

Schools involved in A Chance to Talk also reported identifying children with speech, language and communication needs (SCLN) earlier on and therefore made more appropriate referrals and were able to spot previously overlooked SLCN.

Around 80 per cent of head teachers and NHS speech and language service managers gave the initiative eight out of ten for providing a cost-effective, value for money model of commissioning.

The report concludes that the initiative met the speech, language and communication needs of all pupils by ensuring learning took place in communication supportive environments, using visual prompts, staff monitoring and adjusting their own language for different children and involving parents with their child’s learning through ‘talk’ homework.

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