Mary Hartshorne I CAN Head Of Evidence

Lots Achieved, Lots More Still to Do!

Head of Evidence Mary Hartshorne lays out what we’ve achieved one year on from Bercow: Ten Years On, what more we still have to do and how we’re going to get there.

It’s hard to believe that it’s a year since we launched Bercow Ten Years On: a review of provision for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). Many of you will have contributed to the review by completing a survey, sending in written evidence or by coming to tell us about practice in your area. Since the launch, many more have been involved in making sure change happened as a result of the review.

Bercow Ten Years On described a fragmented system that was failing many children and young people with speech and language communication needs (SLCN) by not identifying their needs early enough nor putting in place the support they needed. We made 47 recommendations to strategic decision-makers and created an accessible website full of resources to help local influencing.

So, what has happened as a result?

Well you can READ ALL ABOUT IT in our first anniversary update report. There has certainly been lots of activity. We’ve been pleased at the level of engagement from ministers, from Government departments, Ofsted, local areas and from Bercow Ten Champions who have really made a noise across social media.

We’ve seen the most progress come in support for children’s early language development. When Damian Hinds highlighted the number of children starting school unable to speak in sentences, he echoed many others who have stressed the widening Word Gap. In this regard, it’s good to see the Department for Education (DFE) and Public Health England working together to create solutions at a strategic level: a new assessment tool for very young children, an SLCN pathway for children aged 0-5 and training for all health visitors. A focus on children’s early language is also a key feature in the majority of Opportunity Area plans.

Getting it right in the early years is great but it can’t stop there. Children’s language development doesn’t stop at age 5, it continues right through school into adolescence. Children with language disorder have long-term needs, lasting well beyond early years. Children need the language skills to be ready for school but schools need to be ready for children and too many staff working with school-aged children do not feel confident in supporting children’s language and communication, nor in identifying those with needs.

In our anniversary report, we identify five key areas where urgent action is needed; these include support for school-age children and those with long-term SLCN. We also continue to push for a cross Government, strategic approach to support for SLCN provision.

It’s been interesting to see calls for this to happen across support for early family support for the first 1000 days of life but for SLCN, this cross-sector, coordinated approach continues to be crucial across the age range.

Here at I CAN, we’ve been focused on this strategic approach. As a partner in the DFE’s Early Years SEND project, we’re training settings and supporting local practitioners to develop a local SLCN pathway.

In another DFE funded project, we’re working with RCSLT and EasyPeasy to Change the Conversation about Language in three mayoral regions. Recognising the need to think beyond early years, we’re also initiating two exciting new pilot projects in secondary schools. Watch out for more information about these!

Lots of people have asked us ‘what’s next?’ Our answer is: there is much more still to be done. We need your continued support in making change happen, whether this is through championing SLCN on social media, developing a local SLCN pathway, talking to the people responsible for commissioning SLCN support or by building children’s communication into your next conversation.

Make a start by reading our anniversary report and joining the campaign #speakupforslcn and #speakupforcommunication