The Communication Trust (TCT) – a coalition of more than 50 not-for-profit organisations which has provided resources, training and information on speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) to the children’s workforce for the past 10 years – has been informed its contract with the DfE will not be renewed in March.
The online petition has been set up to lobby Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds to reverse the decision.
The annual grant TCT receives from the DfE is worth around £650,000, a sum Octavia Holland, director of the trust, said represented around 95 per cent of the organisation’s funding.
Ms Holland said, ‘This year our reach has increased by 20 per cent to over 50,000 registered practitioners. We feel the DfE has underestimated the extent to which the workforce relies on TCT. While the DfE has suggested it may give us a small amount of money to close down programmes, the majority of work we have done will be lost. It is possible we can keep very limited online resources, but without the staff and infrastructure they will very quickly become out of date.
‘With no consultation or discussion with practitioners, the DfE has also failed to understand the importance of the interactions we have with the workforce. We currently deal with around 40 queries a day by phone, but while we will do whatever we can to sustain elements of our work, without ongoing support this will be a really difficult challenge.’
Sue Guest, team leader in speech and language therapy at Hawtonville Children’s Centre in Newark, said, ‘As a profession, we look to TCT to keep us abreast of current speech, language and communication thinking. It breaks our heart that the Government could cut funding to such a great organisation at a time when the importance of speech, language and communication has been proved to be so important to learning, emotional and mental health, and social mobility.’
Hannah Farman, nursery manager at Butterfly Lodge Nursery in Blackpool, added, ‘We can email or call TCT at any time. They are always at the end of the phone to provide guidance and help, which is very important as you cannot always get through to a speech and language therapist. The one-on-one sessions we have had with TCT have made a massive difference to our setting in breaking down different areas of SLCN, how to train staff, reviewing practice and evaluating to make us better practitioners. Cutting the funding can only have a negative impact.’
A DfE spokesperson said, ‘We want every child to succeed, regardless of their circumstances. That’s why we have fundamentally reformed the special educational needs system to put families at its heart. We would like to thank The Communication Trust for the excellent work it has done in supporting children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.
‘Supporting these children and the people that work with them remains a key priority for the department, and we are constantly reviewing the best way to deliver these services.’
- The petition is at http://bit.ly/2swhgEr