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Giving children the best start in life: celebrating the Early Language Development Programme (ELDP). By Virginia Beardshaw CEO

This month marked a real high point for I CAN, as we celebrated the success of our Department for Education-funded Early Language Development Programme (ELDP) with a special seminar at the Office of Public Management.

The ELDP is a national training programme that increases awareness, knowledge and confidence amongst the early years workforce supporting children’s speech, language and communication development – something that is mission-critical for us as the children’s communication charity.

Getting support and identification right in the early years means that fewer children start school without the basic skills they need to learn and make friends. Importantly, through ELDP, children with speech and language needs can receive support at the earliest stage when it can really make a difference.

I CAN has led the Department for Education-funded ELDP programme for the past three years, with support from consortium partners the Pre-School Learning Alliance, Action for Children, the Children’s Society and Elklan.

Throughout, our aim was to improve and enhance the quality of early years provision for young children and their families. Over 16,000 practitioners have been trained to support young children’s speech, language and communication with 1,000 lead practitioners cascading information to their local networks.

Parents involved in the programme have increased their confidence through activities they can use at home, helping to give their children the best start in life and make them ready for school. Independent evaluation from the Office of Public Management (OPM) and Sheffield University demonstrate that the ELDP makes a tangible difference to early years practice and is positively impacting on children and families.

As Donna Link from Birmingham explained at the seminar: “As the largest local authority in Europe, with over 100 languages spoken and 87,000 under fives, we were excited to be involved with the ELDP.

“Once the programme was underway we received feedback of increased knowledge, confidence and awareness to support children’s early language development from our local practitioners. Importantly, the programme renewed enthusiasm for further learning and improvements in practice and increased confidence in sharing support and advice with parents and carers.“

The ELDP celebration event gathered leading early years organisations and individuals to debate the programme’s evaluation and discuss plans to sustain the ELDP legacy post March 2015. Following the event, Sheffield University will be publishing the results of a case study series looking at detailed outcomes for 30 children involved in ELDP with early findings highlighting improvements in children’s language.

As the programme draws to an end it was particularly pleasing to have an accolade from Edward Timpson MP, Minister for Children and Families, who sent a message to seminar participants saying: “A skilled early years workforce and informed parents are essential for ensuring children develop good communications skills early on.

“I’m delighted the Early Language Development Programme (ELDP), funded by the Department for Education and led by I CAN, has had such a positive impact on practitioners, parents, carers and children, with early indications showing improvements in the language development of children aged 0-3.”

Moving forward, I CAN will be offering ELDP training flexibly. It can be purchased by individuals, organisations or whole local authorities and It is tailored to suit local needs.

For further information on the ELDP, or to find out more about the legacy of the programme, email info@ican.co.uk