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Knowle Academy – Bridging the Gap Between Behaviour and Communication

Knowle DGE is a specialist Academy for young people with additional needs principally in the areas of Social Emotional Mental Health (SEMH), Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD), Speech Language and Communication (SLCN) and Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). Deputy Headteacher Kate Lee-Wells and Speech and Language Therapist Anne-Marie Cray outline the approaches that Knowle take in helping their children with SLCN and the impact they have on the local community.


At Knowle DGE we firmly believe that behaviour is communication. All young people attending Knowle DGE have a EHCP (Education and Health Care Plan) and a large proportion of our learners have underlying speech, language and communication needs that are not always immediately apparent. Sometimes what can be seen as non-compliant or ‘acting out’ behaviour often masks hidden language needs.

At Knowle DGE we recognised that many learners had hidden or undiagnosed language and communication needs. That’s why we commissioned Speech and Language Therapists from Child Speech to start working with us to develop and embed a systematic and sustained approach to improving communication across the whole Academy.

The approach taken…

Knowle DGE and Child Speech used resources from The Communication Trust to identify pupils with SLCN. We used evidence-based, impactful interventions and track and monitor children’s progress.

We developed a systematic approach to teacher and support staff development. The first step was to use the Communication Commitment to audit current practice and identify key areas for development over the year. This allowed us to look at how students are supported at a universal, targeted and specialist level.

Staff awareness, training and development was imperative to creating a culture of a communication friendly school. This ensured that supporting speech, language and communication was not seen as an out of class intervention but as something that underpinned all that staff do throughout the school day.

Staff training comprised of universal and targeted training on communication supportive strategies e.g. Word Aware training, blanks levels of questions, colour coding and use of narrative frameworks.













The SLCF training tool identified areas of need for more targeted training. Staff support was given during feedback following classroom audits. The audits involved informally observing classes and giving feedback to staff.

Practical strategies were then given to help support the pupils in their class both individually and on a whole class level, for example, looking at the levels of questioning happening within the class. These enabled teachers to embed strategies specific to their pupils and for Child Speech and the Knowle DGE leadership team to identify strategies that are important across the whole Academy. This included using more visuals and improving vocabulary e.g. all classes now have working word walls and all teachers use task planners in lessons.

All classes have a bank of games and resources to work on different aspects of language and communication.

We also run adapted Talk Boost KS1 and KS2 sessions. The materials have been adapted to encourage engagement and to make them more age appropriate for our pupils.

Support beyond school

Many pupils at Knowle DGE have communication needs that extend beyond the school day.

A successful strategy to support parents and carers has been the introduction of coffee mornings, where parents/carers have been able to meet with the Speech and Language Therapist, Speech and Language Lead Teacher and Speech and Language Assistant.

These informal meetings provide parents and carers with the opportunity to discuss support they need and work in partnership with the communication team. As a result, many feel they can better support their child’s language and communication needs at home. The team has produced visuals for regular routines e.g. personal hygiene, getting ready for school, independent bus travel.

Find out more about Knowle and what the school has to offer here.