Nurseries urged to spend a day on the spoken word

Alex Pattinson
Thursday, February 26, 2015

Speech and language charities call for early years settings and schools to dedicate a whole day to spoken language.

On No Pens Wednesday (7 October) the Communication Trust, a coalition of 52 voluntary and community-based speech and language organisations, provides resources to run a full day of activities focused on speaking and listening.

Anne Fox, director of The Communication Trust, said, ‘The concept of No Pens Day Wednesday came about during the Hello campaign, the national year of communication in 2011. We wanted to find a way to engage schools in easy ways to focus on speaking and listening.’

The campaign began in 2011 but last year it made its debut in the early years sector due to high demand from practitioners with 388 early years settings taking part (22 per cent of the overall number).

Ninety-five per cent of all settings who participated last year said that they would do something differently surrounding the topic of spoken language and one in five said that the day identified a student struggling with spoken language problems that they hadn’t noticed before.

In addition, schools reported significant improvement in written work, inclusion, engagement in lessons and confidence among children following the day.

Carol Rawson, manager of Snowberry Nursery in Essex said, “One of our children has Global Developmental Delay and it was wonderful to see them taking advantage of all of the opportunities to improve communication skills that the day provided and the way that they fully embraced the ethos of the day.”

The resources provided by The Communication Trust allow settings to be flexible about how they spend the day too.

Roundabout Children’s Centre in East Sussex spent most of it learning Makaton, a language that uses signs and symbols rather than speech. Rebecca Bryant, a regional Makaton tutor said, 'The reaction from the professionals and volunteers was fantastic and following the day, I had people requesting regular sessions and letting me know that they had requested further training in order to continue the work that we started on No Pens Day Wednesday. 'Furthermore, it is clear that the vocabulary and story that we went over on the day is being used, as I had colleagues stopping me to ask questions, such as “what was the sign for cucumber?”’

The trust highlighted evidence that language skills in the early years are a predictor of later academic achievement, and that in some areas, up to 50 per cent of children are starting school without the speech, language and communication skills expected for their age.

Shona Crichton, professional advisor of the Communication Trust, said, ‘Learning to talk is one of the most important skills a child will ever learn. Children need to be able to communicate with people around them to allow them to learn, problem solve, make friends and have fun.

‘Supporting spoken language development in the early years leads to better outcomes for all children. Placing a focus on these skills in everyday practice and planning helps children, but also supports practitioners to identify children who may be struggling with their speech, language and communication skills and provide them with the support that they need as soon as possible.’




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