Speech and language support needed more than ever in UK schools

A report from Speech and Language UK has revealed that children with speech and language needs are the highest on record.


Up to 80% of the teachers who participated in the survey said the children they teach are not at an adequate level when it comes to communication in terms of language acquisition and the understanding of words. 


A further 73% believed children’s speech and language isn’t high enough on the government’s agenda. 


Training for teachers was also highlighted as an issue, with 53% saying they don’t have enough support when it comes to their class’ speech and language development. 


Chief executive for Speech and Language UK, Jane Harris, said: “That really shows us that what schools, nurseries, the government are doing at the moment isn’t enough to help children to have the futures they deserve.


“Teachers and teaching assistants can do an awful lot to help children. We also need the NHS to recruit enough speech and language therapists so that children who have lifelong speech and language challenges get that specialist therapy that they really need.


“Without that extra support, these children are likely to fail in English and maths, they’re also likely to end up with mental health problems, they’re more likely to end up out of work, and they’re more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.”


Covid-related lockdowns have been flagged as a key catalyst for this widespread delay in speech development amongst children in the UK.


“Communication was often done through things like laptops, iPads, tablets, whereby children watched a lot of things online,” said Jennifer Lewis, director of Smarty Pants Nursery in east London.


“It’s important to actually communicate with your child… actually talking to them, not just having something where they’re watching just on screen,” she added. 


A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “We are conscious of the effect the pandemic has had on pupils’ education which is why we have made almost £5bn available for education recovery.


“Two-thirds of primary schools have benefitted from our £17m investment in the Nuffield Early Language Intervention, improving the speech and language skills of over 90,000 children in reception classes over three years.”

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