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I CAN launches A Chance to Talk Report – Louisa Reeves discusses project legacy

Between 2010 and 2012, I CAN led a project to develop the communication skills of children in primary schools across three levels. A Chance to Talk involved over 8,000 pupils aged 4 -7 across 30 schools in 4 areas of England. These areas all had significant deprivation, but represented a wide demographic range.

Today (13 May 2013), we have launched the End of Project report for A Chance to Talk which demonstrated that a whole school approach to supporting children’s speech, language and communication skills can accelerate pupil progress and increase academic performance, resulting in an average 50% increase in progress in reading skills.

The findings of the report have been welcomed by Edward Timpson MP, the Minister for Children and Families. The report is also backed by Jean Gross OBE, the government’s former Communication Champion for England, who was impressed by the progress children made both in spoken language and reading.

Successful three wave models have previously existed in schools for children’s literacy and numeracy, however the major gap to date has been around speech, language and communication. Given that literacy and numeracy skills are underpinned by spoken language, this is a major omission. The A Chance to Talk model involves action at wave one – quality first teaching in the classroom; wave two – a catch up programme for children with delayed language; and wave 3 – specialist intervention from a speech and language therapist.

The A Chance to Talk project has provided evidence for a cost-effective model of commissioning that works to support children’s communication. We are encouraging primary schools nationwide to replicate A Chance to Talk by using the downloadable Commissioning Guidance which supports schools to commission children’s speech, language and communication provision. This guidance encourages schools to collaborate and pool vital resources and expertise effectively.

The report found:

–          By supporting all children’s communication, this led to an average 50% increase in progress in reading over this time.

–          Schools were able to identify children with SLCN earlier and spot previously overlooked SLCN.

–          Children with delayed language made between 9-18 months progress in language after the 10 week intervention Talk Boost. Up to 80% of these children moved into the typical range of language development, helping to narrow the gap between them and their peers. This focus on language for children with delayed development accelerated the progress they made academically.

–          Children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) were given specialist input by a speech and language therapist who also worked with class teachers. Children with SLCN had better speech, language and communication skills, found learning in the classroom easier and were noticeably more confident and sociable.

These report findings are important because they show that using a three level model improves speech, language and communication skills across a school; especially for children with delayed language and those with significant SLCN. Through this report we can also begin to look at evidencing the link between language and school skills, like literacy and numeracy.  Our analysis of school data showed that working on speech, language and communication contributes to children’s academic progress.

The schools involved in the pilot recognised the impact of the three level model and the importance of working on children’s speech, language and communication to improve pupils’ academic and life chances.  All four areas have found the programme met their aims in developing children’s speech, language and communication and supporting those with additional needs, and have set aside resources to continue to fund work in this area.

In Kent and Kirkby, funding has been secured to continue the A Chance to Talk model and roll it out to more schools in both areas.  In Rochdale, schools are commissioning speech and language therapy from their local service. And in North Yorkshire, the Local Authority is delivering I CAN’s Primary Talk training and accreditation to schools across the county.

A Chance to Talk was developed by I CAN and The Communication Trust, with support from the Every Child a Chance Trust and funding from the Department for Education alongside other sources.

For more information about A Chance to Talk, to download the Report or the Commissioning Guidance, go to www.ican.org.uk/achancetotalk