New research on speech, language and communications needs for children

Monday, 11 February 2013

The largest ever report on speech, language, communication needs (SLCN) has now been published by the Department for Education (DfE).

The three year Better Communication Research Programme funded by the DfE, involved 10 research projects and the analysis of data from around 6,400 children, 560 parents, 600 speech and language therapists and 750 teachers/special educational needs coordinators.

Professor Sue Roulstone from the University of the West England, Bristol was a core member of the team together with Professor Geoff Lindsay from the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) at the University of Warwick, Professor Julie Dockrell (Institute of Education, University of London) and Professor James Law (Newcastle University).

Professor Roulstone, who is based at the Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit at Frenchay Hospital, said: “Our work highlighted the importance of identifying evidence based interventions for children with language and learning needs. It is crucial to consider how best to support children’s language and communication skills, so that they can participate socially and educationally and become increasingly independent. Other people’s understanding of the needs and difficulties of the children and their families also plays a vital role in providing optimum support.”

Key recommendations from the research include:

Department for Education guidance on the use of the category ‘speech, language and communication needs’ in the School Census should be reviewed.

There should be universal provision for all children; Targeted provision for children requiring additional support within mainstream settings, guided by specialists (e.g. speech and language therapists: SLTs); and Specialist support within mainstream or special settings

Schools should record evidence from the perspective of children and young people and their parents and be able to demonstrate that improvements to their speech, language and communication are increasing their independence and inclusion.

 A programme of initial and post qualification training should be provided for teachers and other practitioners to ensure the SLCN needs of all children and young people are met.

Those responsible for commissioning services for children and young people with SLCN should ensure that the most appropriate support is available for every child with these needs. This should include both health and education commissioners working together to provide services which take into the account of the family.

Basic and applied research is essential in understanding the needs of pupils with SLCN, the effectiveness of intervention and the pupils’ development.

The Better Communications Research Programme is part of the Government's response to the Bercow Review of provision for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, published in July 2008.

The Government published its response Better Communication, the speech, language and communications needs (SLCN) action plan in December 2008, which committed to a series of initiatives to improve services for children and young people with SLCN, including the BCRP,  culminating in the National Year of Speech, Language and Communication in 2011.

More information about the Bristol Speech & Language Therapy Research Unit go to: