New survey results from Save the Children

By Kate Freeman, Lead Communication Advisor

A recent Save the Children survey highlighted teachers’ concerns about children struggling to speak in full sentences and follow simple instructions.  Teachers said that many never catch up and that early language gaps drag down school results, making it harder to deliver the curriculum for all children.

Speaking and listening skills underpin literacy and learning across the curriculum: Studies show that 5 year olds whose vocabulary is in the bottom 10% are over 14 months behind by age 11.  Moreover, vocabulary at age 5 is a significant predictor of educational success at 30.

The reasons that children struggle with these vital skills are many and varied.  Risk factors include coming from an area of high socio-economic need and being a summer-born child.  There are numerous other suggestions about why many children are delayed in talking.  However, what we do know is that there are programmes available for both early years settings and schools to help.

Early Talk Boost and Talk Boost are I CAN’s successful ‘catch up’ programmes.

Early Talk Boost supports 3 – 4 year olds’ communication and language skills in early years settings.  Evaluation results show that those children involved made an average of 6 months’ progress following the 9 week intervention (more than twice the progress of their peers).

Talk Boost I CAN’s programme for 4 – 7 year olds is being delivered all across the country, reaching over 30 000 children to date. Talk Boost accelerates children’s progress in speaking and listening skills by an amazing average of 18 months, after a ten week intervention.

Both programmes are delivered by trained early years practitioners or teaching assistants three times a week with small groups of children. Talk Boost has an additional whole class teaching activity to back up what has been learnt in the small group.

Buy the training and the materials for these catch up programmes are included, with a set of books for each child to take home and share with their parents (for Early Talk Boost); session plans with accompanying resources; and an online tracker to monitor individual children’s progress, providing an excellent opportunity to report to Senior Management and Ofsted about narrowing the gap.

The up-front costs are approximately £25 per child depending on which programme is delivered, how training is accessed, the number of settings or schools trained together and the total number of children involved per year. After the initial investment, the ongoing cost per child is significantly reduced and represents excellent value for money due to the level of progress expected per child.

Save the Children’s polling revealed that teachers struggle to cope with the impact in the classroom of speaking and listening difficulties: Almost two thirds say they lack the time to teach other children in the class; more than half said the problem affected school results and that poor language development causes classroom management problems.  With all these statistics, who can afford not to be involved in the Talk Boost programmes?

For details of how to get these programmes into your school or setting, visit www.ican.org.uk or contact 0207 843 2515.