Communication is crucial: the Bercow Review of speech, language and communication needs services for children
Posted by Jonathan Douglas
The NLT believes that full literacy is the ability to speak, listen, read and write in order to fulfil an individual’s and, ultimately, society’s potential. Speech, language and communications underpin the ability to develop reading and writing skills. They are the foundation of literacy and learning. As the Rose Review stated:
"Speaking and listening, together with reading and writing, are prime communication skills that are central to children's intellectual, social and emotional development."
The publication of the interim report of the Bercow Review of services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs is an exciting moment in the development of full literacy support for all children, which the Rose review describes.
John Bercow’s interim report is a very powerful document. The voices and frustrations of children and young people, as well as parents, carers and practitioners come through in the report as it assesses the current strengths, but more frequently weaknesses of existing speaking and listening support:
“The shortage of speech and language therapy means there is a postcode lottery in place.”
“I had to do a lot of phoning and have got a lot of dead ends before I can find out the information I need.”
Two complementary agendas are at work in the Bercow review – the delivery of specific support for children with speech, language and communication needs; and the development of universal approaches, which raise the profile and general support for speaking and listening skills in schools, communities and homes. It is the universal agenda in which the NLT has a specific role to play.
Talk To Your Baby is the NLT’s campaign to encourage parents and carers to talk more to children from birth to three. It aims to create a universal culture in which early communication is appreciated and promoted. Other initiatives from the NLT seek to embed the development of speaking, listening and communication skills within wider literacy activity using popular culture as a framework to work with target audiences. For instance, Kick into Reading trains community coaches, academy students and first-team players from football clubs as storytellers to deliver storytelling workshops to children and young people. These initiatives are hugely important in supporting the delivery of more specific interventions to address speech, language and communication needs.
One of the recommendations of the Bercow Review is for a campaign “similar in scope and investment to the National Year of Reading”. This is a great idea when linked to the wider recommendations for the development of the speech, language and communication sector. The early signs of the 2008 National Year of Reading campaign indicate that a national campaign can be focused to tackle negative assumptions about a literacy activity amongst specific target groups. This kind of national campaign for speech, language and communication would need a strong infrastructure to support increased demand on services. It would need to establish who the priority groups are to be for the key messages of the campaign. On these foundations, it could be a major step forward in establishing a universal appreciation that communication is crucial'.
Independent Review of Early Reading 2007 www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/phonics/report.pdf
Interim Report. Review of Services for Children and Young People (0-19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs 2008. www.dfes.gov.uk/bercowreview/
Jonathan Douglas, April 2008
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