Shops and businesses to help children develop language skills

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Clarks has pledged to train all 6,500 of its staff in developing children’s speech, language and communication skills and engaging with families in stores across the country.


Staff in shoe shops will be trained in how to talk to children to develop their language skills

The shoe shop joins the Lego Group, Oxford University Press, KPMG and almost 100 others that have pledged to help young children’s early learning at home as part of the Department for Education’s early years coalition of businesses, charities, tech companies and media organisations.

The coalition was set up as part of the Government’s Social Mobility Action Plan with the aim of halving the number of five-year-olds who start school without good early language and communication skills by 2028.

Pledges from businesses already signed up include:

  • HarperCollins will provide author ambassadors, book donations, and grants to help independent bookshops support events for children under five
  • British Land and Penguin Random House are working together to provide children’s books for book swap schemes at three British Land retail sites
  • WHSmith will support literacy programmes in Swindon, which has high levels of illiteracy, by advising parents on how to support their child’s literacy and language development
  • Addo Foods will help employees with children under five use its Nottingham headquarters’ language lab facilities to encourage improved communication skills

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said,We want to create a generation of confident learners who can read and communicate effectively – these are vital skills that children need to grasp from the earliest opportunity in order to succeed. 

‘By working with a growing number of businesses, charities and experts, we’re making it easier for parents to kickstart this early development – helping to take forward our national mission to boost children’s early development.’


The DfE has also set up a new advisory panel to assess existing educational apps on the market, produce tips and guidance for parents on how to use them to aid their child’s learning, and to help them make informed decisions about which have the most educational value.

Members of the panel include Sandra Mathers, a former primary teacher and now senior researcher at the University of Oxford, Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, and Jane Lewis, head of programme development and quality at Save the Children UK.

Jackie Marsh, chair of the advisory panel and professor of education at the University of Sheffield, said, ‘Young children are immersed in a digital world from their earliest years and have access to many apps on tablets and smartphones.

 ‘There is a need to identify the features of high-quality apps that support their learning and to offer parents, carers and teachers guidance on how to select and use apps effectively. The Government has rightly identified this as a priority and I look forward to working with the members of the panel on undertaking this important task.’

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