Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Rescuing A Generation Adrift, by Anne Fox, Trust Director

Communication is at the core of everything we do, and at the heart of all communication is language – words make up sentences which build into conversations. But what happens if you don’t possess those skills?

On 16th January 2013, we published A Generation Adrift showing that at least 10% of children in our schools don’t have adequate communication skills to allow them to learn well. Unless these children are identified and supported quickly, it can have a dramatic effect on their future lives. But identifying children who struggle with speech, language and communication can be tricky because it is such a complex subject. Early intervention is vital, whatever stage of education children and young people are at, and education practitioners need to be aware that children’s needs can change as they get older. Once a child has been identified as struggling, a whole host of interventions is available to support them and boost their skills.

Supporting language when a child is struggling can often be a ‘tweak’ to good practice mixed with solid knowledge of language development. We want all education practitioners and school staff to have this information to help them identify children who have difficulties. But more than just the skills to identify, we want them also to have at their fingertips evidence-based solutions to support the child.

A Generation Adrift marks the start of a series of resources launched by the Trust, beginning next month, which will support schools to develop a good communication environment while also providing interventions for children with SLCN. What Works – developed as a result of the recent Better Communication Research Programme (released in December 2012) – offers a database of tried-and-tested interventions which can be used to support children with SLCN. We will also be releasing the final report about the pilot of Talk of the Town, an integrated, community-led approach to supporting speech, language and communication in children and young people. These are practical ‘solutions’ to what research has shown is a growing problem.

If we don’t do something to tackle the issue of children with SLCN – which is the most prevalent childhood disability – then we risk these children falling behind their peers. Good spoken language skills are a strong predictor of later academic success – just 15% of young people with SLCN sitting GCSEs achieve 5 A*to C grades compared to an average 57% of all young people – and talk and interaction play a key role in children’s social development and learning. It helps young people to develop organisational, problem solving and evaluation skills, all of which are crucial skills for the classroom and beyond. Without communication skills children will struggle later in life and we risk a generation being left adrift.

You can download a PDF of A Generation Adrift here.

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