Schools should be given incentives to prioritise the speech, language and communication needs of children, say MPs

MPs have written to the prime minister calling for urgent action to be taken to help the 1.4 million children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). 

A letter signed by 18 parliamentarians and representatives of young people’s health organisations, says that there is “still much that needs to be done” to properly support children with SLCN in education.

And it adds: “We would be failing an entire generation of children and young people if we did not ensure they receive the support they need.”

The letter comes after a first-anniversary update to the Bercow: Ten Years On report, an independent review of provision for children with SLCN which found that 10 years after the original Bercow report too many children were being missed and not getting the support they needed.

The report made 47 recommendations and last week an anniversary update revealed that 17 of those recommendations had been achieved including: recognising communication skills in functional skills qualifications, the government giving parents consistent messages about what they can do to support their child’s early speech, and training for Ofsted inspectors in how to scrutinise SLCN provision in local areas.

The Department for Education has also made it a priority to close the “word gap”, the difference in early language development between disadvantaged children and others.

But the letter says that although what has been done so far is “encouraging” there are five areas that still require “urgent action”:

  • Joint commissioning for SLCN should be an explicit priority for the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system leadership board – the advisory board set up to work on improving joint commissioning;
  • Support for SLCN beyond early years;
  • Professional development of teachers and teaching assistants in SLCN;
  • Incentivising schools to prioritise SLCN;
  • Support for the SLCN of vulnerable children and young people – such as those excluded from school, who are looked after, in the justice system or with mental health system.

The letter has been signed by: Geraint Davies MP, Lord David Ramsbotham, Paul Williams MP, Baroness Joan Walmsley, Francis Hare Earl of Listowel, Dame Cheryl Gillan MP, Debbie Abrahams MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Lucy Powell MP, Sharon Hodgson MP,  Steve McCabe MP and Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Kamini Gadhok, CEO of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Sue Flohr, head of policy at British Dyslexia Association, Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, Laura-Jane Rawlings, CEO of Youth Employment UK, Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust and Julie Wootton, founder of the Max Appeal charity.

Source: TES

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