A whole-school approach to supporting children’s speech, language and communication skills can produce a 50 per cent increase in progress in reading skills, says a new report by the children’s communication charity I CAN.
The A Chance to Talk approach in primary schools seeks to ensure that learning takes place in communication supportive environments. Teaching assistants are trained to deliver small group activities three times a week, focusing on listening and attention, vocabulary, sentence building, storytelling and conversations. Visual prompts and displays are used, staff monitor their own language and adjust it for different children, and parents are involved with their child’s learning through “talk” homework.
I CAN is calling for primary schools nationwide to replicate the model and it has published a guide to support schools in the commissioning of children’s speech, language and communication provision. This guidance encourages schools to collaborate and pool resources and expertise.
From 2010 to 2012, the A Chance to Talk project involved over 8,000 four- to seven-year-olds, across 30 schools. Results showed that children with delayed language made, on average, three times the normal rate of progress in language development between nine and 18 months after a ten-week intervention.
Up to 80 per cent of children with delayed language moved into the “typical” range of language development. Children with delayed language also accelerated the progress they made academically, with 90 per cent exceeding or meeting the progress expected for all children of their age group in reading, 69 per in writing and 76 per cent in numeracy.
A Chance to Talk was developed by I CAN and The Communication Trust, with support from the Every Child a Chance Trust and funding from the Department for Education.
The commissioning guidance and the project’s evaluation report can be downloaded from: