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I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT)

Speaking out about language skills

The ability to communicate is the most fundamental life skill for children. Some 1.4 million children (ten per cent) across the UK – two or three in every classroom – have long-term, persistent language difficulties. However, more than half are not being identified by schools, meaning they do not receive any support.

Speech, language and communication (SLC) services across the country have been dramatically hit in recent years. Asking the government for more funding was unrealistic; an innovative approach was required. A SLC review commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) in 2008 was chaired by John Bercow MP. In 2018 I CAN and RCSLT formed a partnership to produce Bercow – Ten Years On, which included 2,500 pieces of evidence and made 47 recommendations on how to improve these critical services for children, young people and their families.

Early on it was agreed that the report’s recommendations would, where possible, build on initiatives already in place by demonstrating how they could be enhanced at low or no cost. Seventeen of the recommendations have already been achieved. For example, Public Health England now provides local areas with data on the estimated incidence of children’s speech, language and communication needs, while DfE has put early language development at the centre of its home learning environment campaign. More than 1,000 health visitors have been trained to spot the signs of early speech and language under-development.

While I CAN and RCSLT do not claim that all of the changes made are a direct result of the report, they do believe that before its release very little government action was taking place on SLC, and since, its profile has risen considerably.

Martin Edwards, Charity Awards judge, described the project as “very solid” and John Low was impressed by the strong collaboration between two ostensibly competitive organisations.

ican.org.uk

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