Major new review into children's speech and language

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ten years on from a landmark report into children’s speech, language and communication, a follow-up review is to be published.

Children’s communication charity I CAN, in partnership with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), has today launched an inquiry to inform ‘Bercow: Ten Years On.’

Evidence will be gathered from a range of practitioners, parents/carers and young people, as well as service managers and employers, and experts in the field.

The review, which will be chaired by the former Government communication champion for children Jean Gross, is due to be published in early 2018 – ten years after the Bercow Review into provision for children with language difficulties. It is being put together in response to figures that show an ‘alarming’ number of children are starting school with significant unidentified language difficulties, as well major overhauls to the education and health system.

According to findings from the Surrey Communication and Language in Education Study (SCALES), by University College London, approximately two children in every Year 1 class experience a ‘clinically significant’ language disorder that impacts learning. However, Department for Education data from the same year found that only three per cent of children in Year 1 were identified by schools as having speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

I CAN says that as a result, more than half of children with language disorders are being missed and ‘far too’ many children who struggle to talk, understand and communicate their thoughts are at risk of not receiving the crucial support they need.

The aim of the new review is to understand why children aren’t being identified and what can be done to ensure they can the help they need.

I CAN and RCSLT are inviting individuals and organisations to put forward written submissions sharing their experiences of the ‘reality’ of SLCN support and the impact of this for children and their families.

Ms Gross said, ‘ It’s shocking that almost ten years after John Bercow’s report so many children are not being identified in schools when good language and communication skills are so vital for learning.

‘We need to find out why. Is it because schools suspect there might be a problem, but struggle to get advice now that speech and language therapists and advisory teachers are thin on the ground? And what is happening to identify children before they start school? The Bercow: Ten Years On review will tell us, and help us understand what might need to change at both a local and national level to get children the help they need.’

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