Policy and Politics
Children's communication problems must be tackled in the early years
Children from low-income families should have more support in the early years to tackle their speech, language and communication needs says a cross-party group of MPs and peers.
The report, conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties, explored the link between communication difficulties and social disadvantage in young children.
It welcomes the fact that the Government has made communication and language one of the three prime areas of learning in the EYFS. It recommends that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds should receive extra support earlier on to ensure that they have a secure foundation for language and literacy. If this support is not given, then communication difficulties can have a knock-on effect on literacy, school readiness and school performance and can put children at a risk of a wide range of long term consequences in terms of literacy, mental health and employment, the report says.
Lord Ramsbotham, the chair of the group, said, ‘Effective collaboration between services is crucial. We need a national framework for local education, health and social care services that covers all children with communication difficulties and reflects the recommendations in this report.’
In the report, published on 27 February, the group calls for more comprehensive training for childcare practitioners to better the systems for monitoring and responding to the development of a child’s communication in order to improve their ‘communication environments’.
These include the number of books available, trips to the library, parents’ teaching activities and the number of toys children have access to and are considered the most important predictor of language development at the age of two.
Kamini Gadhok, chief executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language therapists, said. ‘This report demonstrates the importance of good communication skills to children’s life chances and comes at a critical time in the passage of the Children and Families Bill through parliament.’
Anne Fox, director of The Communication Trust, said, ‘We welcome the All Party Parliamentary Group’s investigation into the large number of children who have poor language in many communities; we are pleased to see support given to the contribution made by the voluntary sector to support better outcomes for these children.’
The Better Communication Research Programme, a three-year research programme, funded by the Department of Education, reported in December that pupils entitled to free school meals and living in deprived areas were more than twice as likely to be identified as having speech, language and communications needs.