In March, children’s communication charity I CAN and The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists published, an update to the original 2008 Bercow Report to review support for children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) in England.
The online petition on the parliamentary petitions website calls on the Government to implement the recommendations from the new report.
If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in Parliament.
The report highlighted a broken system, which, it said, left children at the mercy of a postcode lottery, with support varying widely throughout England.
Just over half of parents and carers surveyed (52 per cent) said their family’s experience of speech, language and communication support was poor.
The Department for Education (DfE) said in its response to the petition, ‘We are considering the report’s recommendations and will respond appropriately in due course. We will keep I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists updated on progress.’
The DfE said it recognised speech, language and communication skills are ‘fundamental’ in helping children and young people flourish in life, and pointed to its work in developing the Children and Families Act 2014, the Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential plan for improving social mobility through education, its work with the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England to help health visitors and early years practitioners identify and support children’s SLCN, and the new schools’ workforce contract it has awarded to nasen and University College London to encourage schools to prioritise SEND and help them identify and meet training needs.
The Department also said it was investing £5m in trials to help parents improve their children’s language development and home learning, £50 million in improving early language and literacy provision, and establishing a new national network of English Hubs and a £5m ‘what works’ fund in partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation.
The DfE response continued, ‘The Government is committed to responding to Dame Christine Lenehan’s review of residential special schools, Good Intentions, Good Enough?, later in the year. We will take that opportunity to set out how the government will continue to work to achieve the vision of a reformed SEND system. This will also provide an opportunity to draw out some of the common themes between the Lenehan review and the Bercow: Ten Years On report.
‘We have been in regular contact with I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in respect of the report’s recommendations, and we will continue to keep them updated on the progress we are making.’
A debate on Speech, Language and Communication Support for Children brought by Conservative MP Rebecca Pow took place in Westminster Hall on Wednesday (4 July).
I CAN and The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists said, ‘We welcome the Government’s response to the Bercow: Ten Years On petition. We are pleased it reiterates the Government’s commitment to ensuring that those with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) receive the support they need to reach their full potential. More needs to be done to ensure that that is the case and we look forward to continuing our discussions with Government.
‘As Rebecca Pow MP’s Westminster Hall debate on speech, language and communication support powerfully demonstrated, early interventions are needed to ensure children with SLCN are not left behind. To achieve this, it is essential that education, health and social care, and where appropriate justice work together to properly support them throughout their lives.
‘As the Bercow: Ten Years On report recommends, our nation requires a commitment from Government to a cross-departmental strategy for children with speech, language and communication at its core.’
Recommendations from Bercow: Ten Years On
- Clear information to be developed for parents, and support for speech, language and communication recognised as essential to improving social mobility and inequality
- A new cross-government strategy to place children with speech, language and communication at its core, and improvements in provision for children and young people’s mental health that recognise the importance of SLCN
- Children and young people to receive support wherever they live, with local areas to be provided with data on estimated SLCN, local area inspections to continue after 2020, and funding to be made available for training on joint commissioning for SLCN
- Government support for the development of evidence-based integrated pathways for children and young people with SLCN
- Signs of SLCN to be spotted early, with speech, language and communication included in initial qualifications, and continuing professional development made available for practitioners
- Ofsted inspectors trained to focus on speech, language and communication progress