ACTT Images ©Deborah Ripley

I CAN’s A Chance To Talk (ACTT) receives endorsement during Westminster SLCN debate

When we launched our A Chance to Talk report last month, Ed Timpson – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education – welcomed it as a good example of joint working between NHS speech and language therapists and schools. He endorsed one of our key findings – the power of colleagues working together to ensure better outcomes for children.  A Chance to Talk offers a practical model for supporting speech, language and communication in children aged 4-7 at three levels: universal, targeted and specialist – and with impressive results. On average there was 50% more progress in reading, and 80% of children with delayed language caught up with their peers. 

The report generated lots of interest, with many people downloading the commissioning guidance which accompanies it, giving advice on how to replicate the model. The interest continues: A Westminster Hall debate on Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) led by Robert Buckland MP last week made explicit mention of I CAN’s A Chance to Talk programme as an example of an a impactful, evidence-based programme which fosters a joint commissioning and highly valued ‘team around the child’ approach.

We are keen to have Local Authorities include A Chance to Talk in their local offer for children with SEN as a joined-up solution to supporting children’s language. So, it appears, is Ed Timpson, stating;

 “The local offer presents clear opportunities for local authorities and schools to reflect approaches with good evidence of positive impact.  I CAN’s programme, “A Chance to Talk”, which is supported by funding from my Department, is one example.

He added; 

“It provides a comprehensive approach to children’s speech and language development across clusters of schools and through the involvement of NHS speech and language therapists. It incorporates a joint commissioning approach to ensure that children with the most complex needs receive specialist help at school…. It provides flexibility in health and education, breaks down many of the barriers ….and starts to bring about the culture change that we need to see on the ground.”

The debate also gave recognition to the fact that speech, language and communication needs are the most common type of primary need for pupils with full statements of SEN in maintained primary schools.

Robert Buckland, vice-chair of the all-party group on speech and language difficulties, also made specific mention to the links between social disadvantage with language delay and poor educational attainment.

“In areas of social deprivation, upwards of 50% of children are starting school with language delay. That does not mean that their general cognitive abilities are below the national average, but their language skills are delayed. That delay can often run into secondary school and that has an impact on literacy and general attainment.”

In response, speakers called for a pragmatic approach to supporting children and young people with SLCN.  The debate supported having ‘link’ speech and language therapists for each mainstream school to ensure a network of specialists who can provide support when needed for teachers dealing with children in the mainstream environment.  

They highlighted increasing staff training so that generally, whether they are teachers or teaching assistants, there is awareness and understanding of how to manage and help children with identified SLCN. I CAN’s A Chance to Talk programme is one such example, and one which supports speech and language difficulties at universal, targeted and specialist levels.

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