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.

Want to find out more about how you can help and support children with SLCN? Subscribe to the Trust’s blog for regular updates, ‘like’ us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter here.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Supporting the changing educational landscape, by Robert Buckland MP

Today I had the honour of hosting The Communication Trust’s Reception in Parliament, which focussed on how schools can help meet the speech, language and communication needs of children and young people.

I was thrilled to be asked to speak as I have long been a fan and a supporter of what The Communication Trust is seeking to achieve. By using its collective expertise, the Trust supports the children’s workforce and commissioners and allows them to provide high quality provision of therapy and assistance. The way in which the Trust spreads good practice and awareness of speech, language and communication needs, whether they be in education or health, is something that I have long considered vitally important.

Being a parent of a child with speech, language and communication needs I have also seen at first-hand the importance of therapy to help young people overcome the obstacles that they face. I have also experienced the benefits that dedicated speech and language therapists can bring, and their importance not only in providing direct professional services but also in the training of other providers.

Speech, language and communication skills are growing ever more important as children and young people enter an increasingly competitive global workforce. They are also now a central part of Ofsted’s revised framework for school inspection, with ‘communication skills’ explicitly referred to as a parameter for inspection in two areas of judgement.

However, the Trust is today launching its latest thinkpiece, A Generation Adrift, which demonstrates that schools often face a challenge in locating the support required for their pupils with speech, language and communication needs, using evidence from the new Better Communication Research Programme report. The Communication Trust can offer schools a range of support to overcome these challenges and help them to support children and young people’s speech, language and communication.

In a changing educational landscape such as the one that we face today, the issue of children’s communication needs to be considered by an ever-wider range of actors. This includes, but is not limited to, Multi Chain Academies, Umbrella Academy chains, independent Academies, Learning Co-operatives, for profit and not for profit learning support agencies, and the wider commission community. There is, I believe, much good work already underway and I am confident that the ongoing work of The Communication Trust and the organisations which it represents will ensure that no child is left struggling with unidentified speech, language or communication difficulties.

You can find out more about Robert Buckland on his website.

A Generation Adrift can be downloaded here.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Children’s communication – what’s next?

The Trust's 2013-17 Strategy
We can all agree that the Hello campaign, the national year of communication 2011, was a success. More than 350,000 Hello resources were distributed and 72% of adults reported seeing Hello messages during the year. We also found that as more parents became aware of what good speech and language is, more began to report concerns about their children's speech, language and communication skills and to seek professional help and guidance. We also trialled three new ways of working to empower parents and the children’s workforce to help all children get more out of their speech, language and communication and to spot and support those who struggle in more effective ways.

For us, Hello as an awareness raising tool is over, but the issue of children with language delay or speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) has not gone away. We have been successful in influencing some areas of policy - getting Ofsted to include communication in their new inspection guidelines and the National Curriculum Review Panel to recommend its inclusion across the curriculum - but there's still more work to do.

Now we must make sure that the children's workforce - and by this we mean anyone who works with children and young people - is equipped with the skills, knowledge and confidence to know what good communication development is and to recognise and support children who are struggling.

In order to do this we will be taking forward one of our key strategic projects begun during the Hello campaign, Talk of the Town - a community-wide strategy for developing good communication in children and young people aged 0-19 through schools, early years settings, children's centres and families - and the Level 3 Award in Supporting Children and Young People's Speech, Language and Communication, developed by The Communication Trust with City & Guilds.

We know we face crucial challenges in our aim to make sure every child is understood because communication skills are so often overlooked and many children and young people's needs are often misinterpreted, misunderstood or missed altogether. Our strategy also allows us to continue to work with the youth justice sector where research has show there are high numbers of children and young people with unidentified SLCN.

The local landscape for delivering services is ever changing and our plan is to work with policy makers, local and national, to make sure children and young people get the best help and support they can.

You can join us on this journey by following us on Facebook and Twitter or by signing up to receive our monthly newsletter. For more information, click here.

Our five-year strategy is available here.

The Hello Evaluation can also be downloaded here.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

It’s a tough job... but someone has to do it!

Simone Gilson, from Pearson Assessment, wrote us this blog post after attending the Shine a Light Awards 2012 judging event

Applications for the Shine a Light Awards 2012 have now closed – big thanks to everyone who took the time to submit an application.

One judging panel hard at work
During the last three weeks we've been busy shortlisting the applications and last week we hosted the judges’ event, where the all important decisions were made. The quality of the applications meant it was a tough job!

This year we split our judges into three teams, each of whom was given the task of looking at a specific group of awards. Our expert panel for 2012 included some names you may recognise from last year: including Jack Marshall, winner of the Young Person of the Year Award 2012 and Janet Cooper, from Stoke Speaks Out, whose team not only won the Multi-Agency Team of the Year Award but also one of Pearson Assessment’s Outstanding Achievement Awards. In addition, we were delighted to welcome back Virginia Beardshaw, Chief Executive of I CAN, Chris Hall and Lesley Munro from Pearson Assessment, and introduce same new faces including the new Director of The Communication Trust, Anne Fox.

Supported by rounds of tea and biscuits, our judges met at the Pearson Headquarters on October 19th to choose the award winners and runners up. There were plenty of debates and opinions - luckily no fights - and in the end plenty of excitement over the final outcomes.

Jack Marshall, left, was last year's Young Person of the Year
 Lesley Munro described the process: "It was a privilege to be part of the judging panel and to learn about the excellent work being undertaken daily around speech, language and communication (SLC) in primary and secondary schools. There was evidence of whole school involvement and cross curricula embedding of SLC. Initiatives from Hello, the national year of communication, were also being taken up or expanded upon in many schools.

“Judging the Young Person of the Year award was a delight. The most difficult task was to select a winner from among these inspirational young people, who not only achieve their own goals, but also go beyond them to help others locally and nationally with communication challenges.”

We'll be keeping you in suspense a little longer as to who has won what as the winners won't be announced until our awards night on the 21st November!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Put down your pens, and pick up language

Trust Professional Director Wendy Lee talks about the benefits of schools taking part in No Pens Day Wednesday:

Tomorrow (October 10th), more than 1,100 schools across the country will be taking part in No Pens Day Wednesday. In other words they will be banned from writing anything down for the whole of the school day.

The Communication Trust first used this event in September 2011 as part of the Hello campaign – the national year of communication – to raise awareness of the benefits of good communication. We challenged schools across the country to spend a whole day without writing, making best use of their speech and language skills, and they responded fantastically!

We heard of schools arranging debates, talking homework and making podcasts as part of their lessons – one school even had the “pen police” patrolling and watching out for pens and pencils in action. It was a brilliant event for Hello and got people really thinking about how children benefit from having good speaking and listening skills. Though it was a fun event, there was a serious side - it highlighted that a focus on speaking and listening can be really challenging – and how much children can learn by not writing things down.

This year, No Pens Day Wednesday could be seen as even more important for schools. Communication is now a key component of the Ofsted framework; in how teaching enables communication skills and in how pupils develop these skills and apply them across the curriculum.

For the first time, there is a spotlight on communication as well as on literacy and numeracy – a significant step forward for those campaigning for the importance of speech, language and communication skills.

We know from evidence it is fundamental that children have good speech, language and communication (SLC) skills, and that poor SLC development can impact on other areas such as literacy, behaviour and overall attainment. The more we can do to boost children’s SLC development the better and we are keen to support schools with ideas and resources to build on the good practice they already have in place.

No Pens Day Wednesday is a great and enjoyable way to put the focus on spoken language as a way to support and enhance learning. We’re excited that over 1,100 schools have signed up and we’d urge as many other schools as possible to do the same. If you can’t join in on October 10th, just pick another day that works for your school – once you’re registered you’ll have access to all the lesson plans, assemblies and staff meeting briefings prepared by our experts. You can use these resources whenever you like, as part of normal school days or host a No Pens Day Wednesday once a term if you like.

Last year, curriculum expert Mick Waters recorded a short film, explaining why he was supporting No Pens Day Wednesday. He said: “I think No Pens Day is a great idea because if you think about the amount of time you use a pen, is all this time writing in school really preparing children for grown-up life? We could make life so exciting without pens.”

Watch Mick’s full film here

If you’re interested in signing up for No Pens Day Wednesday visit our website here for more information.

Want to keep up with the Trust's latest news? Click on the box on the right to subscribe to our blog.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Learn how to crack good communication, by Amy Harker, Development Officer

Wow... it’s nearly Cracking Communication Conference time again! We are delighted that our first conference was such a success and we've received some really positive feedback from delegates, particularly about our focus on emphasising communication as a central skill. We enjoyed holding our spring event in London, but as autumn approaches, we look forward to a trip to King’s House Conference Centre in Manchester to further our journey in placing communication at the heart of schools’ policy and practice.

Keeping the focus within the current school agenda, we really feel our second conference will support schools to enable all children to achieve their potential through better communication skills and will prepare school leaders for the inclusion of communication in the new Ofsted framework.

We are really excited to have secured such prominent speakers. As well as the Trust’s own notable Professional Director, Wendy Lee, the star-studded line up includes Anne Duffy, an Ofsted representative, and Geoff Lindsay from the Better Communication Research Programme. Their speeches will link together policy, evidence and practice and provide a noteworthy morning agenda.

But the afternoon line-up is not to be forgotten! School leaders can choose from eight practical workshops and we're delighted to have a range of practical advice and tools on offer. The sessions will give delegates the chance to consider a range of practical solutions, based on good practice and clear evidence for their own communities. Also - do make sure that you attend our exhibition, on offer throughout the day, to network and see resources first hand (I hear there might be some freebies!).

We know there are currently lots of ‘cracking’ conferences out there – but this is definitely the one to attend! To find out more information (including our special early bird rate) please click here.

We look forward to seeing you in Manchester!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Shining a light on schools communication by Lynne Milford, Press Officer

Communication is very much a 'buzz topic' for schools, as national education policy places more and more emphasis on children having good speech, language and communication skills. In the coming months, we will see a lot of schools introducing communication-friendly activities.

But in some schools, good communication is already close to their heart and The Communication Trust and Pearson Assessment are keen to reward them through the Shine a Light Awards 2012. The awards are an opportunity to reward and share good practice, as well as raising awareness of good speech, language and communication.

There are two school categories in the Shine a Light 2012 awards - one for primary and one for secondary schools and colleges – as well as awards for Young Person of the Year, Communication Champion and ‘Innovation Award’ among others. Judges are looking for schools where speech, language and communication development is a priority and where children with SLCN are spotted early and supported. They're also looking for schools which involve parents and work in partnership with other agencies to support children's speech, language and communication.

Watercliffe Meadow School with Vanessa Feltz
 Last year Watercliffe Meadow Primary School in Sheffield scooped the 'Communication Friendly Award – Primary Schools', receiving praise from the judges for its aim of 'getting things right from the start'.

The school places such a high priority on involving parents that staff created a series of five workshops for all families to attend, which allowed the teachers to work with the parents and children together, as well as giving them learning to take home. The school day is also designed from the child’s point of view, with a quarter of the day spent in play situations so children can practise talking in a natural setting.

To read more about Watercliffe Meadow Primary School’s success, click here.

Tricia Lang and Marie Underwood from Preston Manor School
 Preston Manor School in Wembley won the ‘Communication Friendly Award - Secondary Schools’ after impressing judges with a project demonstrating joint-working between their Speech and Language Base and the Department of English. They targeted a group of Year 7 pupils and created opportunities to promote speaking and listening as part of the curriculum. The school also took the Hello campaign to its heart, using it as an inspiration, creating a ‘Year of Communication’ noticeboard so pupils and staff could see the ‘Focus of the Week’ and the materials available.

To read more about Preston Manor’s work, click here.

Now you’ve seen what we’re looking for - does your school place a similar emphasis on pupils developing good speech, language and communication skills? Have you created innovative practices which have shown good results with your pupils? If so, you could be eligible for the Shine a Light Awards 2012. You can download an application form here.

If you’re not a school, do not despair – we have a range of other categories, including Youth Justice Award, Communication Champion and a Commissioning Award. Check out the microsite for more information.

The closing date for applications has been extended to October 10th.

Good luck!