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Speech and Language in the Classroom

The Blog

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Response to Tristram Hunt’s comments at the NAHT conference on 1st May

Tristram Hunt, Labour’s shadow education secretary, recently spoke to journalists after addressing the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference. He commented on the decline of speaking and listening skills of children starting school.

The issue surrounding children’s communication skills upon school entry has recently been researched and reported by the The Early Intervention Foundation (Many young pupils 'can't communicate').

Mr Hunt said

“I am struck by how often head teachers say this [speaking and listening] has got markedly worse over the last decade.”

He recognised there are many factors which could be impacting on children’s speaking and listening skills in today’s society, whether that be the influence of technology, time-poor working parents, or lack of parent knowledge about the importance of engaging with their children.

Mr Hunt and the Labour Party have been critical of the closure of 750 Sure Start children's centres.

"We do think that teaching parenting and promoting attachment and having mums learn from mums and dads learn from dads, and children learn from children in children's centres is an important way in which the skills of parenting are crowd-sourced amongst communities."

We hope to see the new government push to reopen these Sure Start centres.

The importance of speaking and listening skills

Children come into school with a wide range of language skills and identifying where each pupil is at is important to allow teachers to put the right support in place at the right time. Here at Speech Link Multimedia Limited, we have written about the impact of poor speaking and listening skills and poor language skills on children’s development in previous blogposts.

Recognising the potential impact of delayed speaking, listening and language skills at a young age, we are passionate about the importance of identifying these children early on.

Language Link provides schools with a tool to reliably screen every pupil for delayed language skills. The tool allows for whole class screening, giving teachers the insight into the language skills of their class, and identifying any pupils who may benefit from specific intervention to nurture their language skills.

Following the screening, teachers are provided with a package of interventions to suit the needs of their class. For example, whole class strategies are recommended, language groups can be set up, and individual or small group activities are also included. Activities targeting the development of listening skills in particular are included. The resources can be used with any child who may benefit from a focus on his/her speaking, listening and language skills.

Language Link also provides information and resources for parents surrounding speaking and listening skills. The resources which schools can download for parents aim to help parents support their own children’s language development.

The language of the classroom – why is testing necessary?

It is tricky to spot when a child is having difficulty understanding the language of the classroom. A child may look as though they are understanding what the teacher is saying, however there are many ways a child can mask their difficulty understanding the language used. They may be following their peers, using routine, or picking up on visual cues to meaning. The only reliable way to check whether a child is understanding language at the level expected of their age is through the use of structured assessment on a 1:1 basis.

To find out more about the Language Link packages, click here.

Quotes from BBC news report 1st May 2015.

Tristram Hunt (@TristramHuntMP) led the popular #SLTchat on Twitter on 3rd May where he hosted questions on the future of the education policy.

Related news:

Parents have duty to play with children, says Hunt

Children spend six hours or more a day on screens

Many young pupils 'can't communicate'

Radio 4 programme – the language parents use to talk to their children

30 million word gap

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