Speech, language and communication needs: have your say and help change the future

We've covered the Bercow: Ten Years On review last year, when Barney looked at its recommendations a decade ago and what became of them.

Today, we are really pleased to have a guest post from the Chair of the review, Jean Gross CBE. Jean was also, until recently, the government’s Communication Champion for children and young people, responsible for promoting the importance of good language skills.

Dame Jean, is passionate about achieving better life chances for children and young people who don’t have much going for them in their lives and dedicates her time to trying to make a difference for them. She has been an educational charity head, teacher, an educational psychologist, head of children’s services in a local authority, author of SEND books and a Fellow at three universities.  Quite understandably after all her contributions, Jean was awarded a CBE for services to education in 2011.

jean gross-bercow review 10yo

Speech, language and communication needs: have your say and help change the future

It’s now just over two months since we began gathering evidence as part of the Bercow: Ten Years On review.

You may already be familiar with the review; our aim is to find out about services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and examine how things are different since the original 2008 report A review of services for children and young people SLCN.

Whilst we will be taking stock of the changes we’ve seen following the recommendations from that original report, this review will not be a repeat of what went before. We want to find out what is happening now in services for children and young people with SLCN, but also to be able to share what we find out about what is working in terms of support...and most importantly WHY?

Hearing your voice is the key to success

How can the successes be replicated so that everyone is able to access good practice? A significant part of this will be through hearing the views of parents and carers of children and young people with SLCN.

Response so far to our call for evidence has been excellent. But, as the evidence continues to flow in to the review, we find ourselves gaining crucial information about the numbers of children struggling because of difficulties learning to talk.

For example, evidence submitted by the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) from their survey in 2016 has revealed a worrying increase in health visitors reporting that they are seeing higher numbers of children with delayed language, with the number saying this rising from 64% in 2015 to 72% in 2016. That’s nearly three quarters of health visitors who feel they see more children with delayed language now than they did before.

The reality of this is increasing numbers of children using simpler language, finding it harder to learn new words and struggling to understand the same instructions as their peers. All of these are vital skills for children as they start school and, as they get older, for later academic success.

There is of course, robust evidence of the strong impact language skills have on attainment at school – for example vocabulary at age five is a very strong predictor of the qualifications achieved at school leaving age and beyond. So an increase in the numbers of children without these skills is of course concerning.

Jean Gross
Jean Gross

Knowledge leads to questions about provision

But what does this information from the iHV mean for us and the Bercow: Ten Years On review, and ultimately for parents and carers? Through learning about the perceived increase in numbers of children with delayed language, we can then ask the question ‘what happens to these children, once they have their language needs identified?’ Crucial to the review will be finding out what, if any, support is available for these children and their families as a result of having their delayed language recognised.

Do families have the information they need to be able to support their child? Do they know where to go for help? How long must they wait for help? Gathering this information will be fundamental in us understanding the reality for children and young people with SLCN and their families.

It is therefore crucial that as many parents and carers as possible tell us their views. Sharing your experiences will be essential if we are to be able to make sure the recommendations that we make as part of Bercow: Ten Years On are rooted in your reality.

You and your family may be able to tell us about a great practitioner who listened, understood and worked with you to ensure your child got the support they need. Your child’s school may be skilled at supporting them in the classroom and you at home...please speak out and let us know. Or, you may have had experiences that were less positive. You may have experienced frustration and rejection whilst seeking support for your child’s speech, language and communication needs. You may have had to wait a long time for support and when it came it was inconsistent and limited. Either way, we want to hear your story.

How to take part

The Bercow: Ten Years On parent and carer consultation is open, so take the chance to have your say about services for children and young people with SLCN. You can read more about the review here, and take part in our online survey here.

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Special Needs Jungle at Special Needs Jungle
Special Needs Jungle was founded in 2008 as a personal SEN blog by Tania Tirraoro. It is now a multi-author, award-winning site covering special needs, disability, mental health and rare conditions in children & young people birth-25 years.
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  • Susan Lyons

    As far as I know, children with SLCN fall into one of two groups – those with an inborn speech and/or developmental language disorder, and/or ASD; and those who have a language delay, because they have not received sufficient linguistic stimulation from their parent carer(s) from birth and in the early years. This article is misleading, because it does not make this distinction clear – for instance, is the number of children with inborn specific language difficulties rising (due possibly to earlier or better diagnosis); or is it the number of children, with insufficient language input at home, that is rising?