Su Vosper Blog

A Reflection on Engage in Education by Su Vosper

Over the last two years I’ve been part of the I CAN team of advisors working on the Engage in Education project.   As a speech and language therapist, by background, it’s been a very different experience for me working closely with key workers and teaching staff to develop their practice whilst not working directly with the young people at risk of exclusion.  It’s given me the chance to consider what helps others to become more aware of the importance of communication in relation to behaviour and learning , and also what helps motivate people to change their own practice to become more ‘communication friendly.’   A few of the staff I have worked closely with have looked back to their work before the project and now realise they use strategies more consciously.

It’s been exciting to see the impacts for both staff and young people.

A couple of highlights for me have been seeing a change in staff awareness and confidence both in identifying communication needs but also implementing helpful communication strategies with young people.  At the end of her first year of practice, one newly qualified teacher said to me:

“I suppose, if I’m honest I’ve been trying to get to grips with being a NQT and all that it involves…We covered things like checking back understanding on the teacher training course but until now I’d probably not had a chance to think about how I’d include it…”


There are some things I noticed…, such as visual timetables to help them engage and behave well, which I hadn’t thought about how I’d use in my lessons until now.  I’m now making the link between what’s used there that helps and what I could use to help my learners.”

This reflects our wider evaluation where 79% of staff identified an increase in awareness of hidden communication needs, with 80% reporting that it would change the way they worked.

But what’s even better, is where the changes staff make impact on the young people themselves.   Following the I CAN communication input with key workers and staff, our data analysis showed that 69% of young people felt they were better communicators than they had been before EiE, and they rated their communication skills as 25% higher than before the programme.

This fits with what teaching staff and key workers say: they see increased engagement, learning and communication in young people who participated in the programme.

I think what has impressed us most has been the way young people have reflected on their own communication skills – and how making small changes have helped them to learn and stay engaged.

I find it hard to understand people who talk too fast.  It’s good to have time to get things into your head”    Student

We’ve learnt a lot already about what helps staff to make the link between behaviour needs and communication difficulties, how to help them to adapt their practice and what the young people themselves want.   The final evaluation report, which will bring all the evidence together, will be released later this year.

To see more about the Engage in Education pilot programme, check out: or:

If you want to read more about I CAN and the work we do, visit  If you want to read more about Engage in Education, go to or for specific enquires please email