Blinks: High quality reviews and training
Blinks: High quality reviews and training
Blinks: High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training

Guest Column - July/August 2022
Jane Harris

2030 vision: we need to talk about speech and language

Given the unusual way the schools white paper and SEND green paper were published on consecutive days in late March, it is understandable that the sector is still trying to make sense of them.

It's no less surprising that school leaders are still reeling at the news of both a 90 per cent literacy and numeracy target and a sudden shift to a virtuous national system for pupils with special educational needs.

It would perhaps be easier to take in if there was any sense of a common vision between these two documents. Or any connection at all. Ministers seem a little touchy about the idea that there isn't one. But while they have failed to highlight it, one thread does tie these otherwise disparate sets of aspirations: a failure to appreciate the importance of speech and language, and the toll the pandemic has wrought on this foundational skill.

Our research at I CAN has found that 1.5 million children are at risk of not being able to speak or understand language at an age-appropriate level. If these children continue to struggle, they are over four times less likely to get good GCSEs in maths and English.

Similarly, we know that children who are able to talk, using words or alternative communication methods, are far more likely to achieve the green paper's aspirations of a good education, good friends, good mental health and a good social life.

The largest category of special educational need in primary schools is speech, language and communication difficulties, which cross-over with many of the other categories of need (autism and mental health among them). For example, almost half of young people referred to mental health services have difficulties with spoken language.

Yet our failure to recognise the primacy of being able to speak and understand language was encoded in our comprehensive school system from the start, a focus on the three Rs belying an assumption that the vast majority of children would be able to talk and understand instructions from their teacher.

Whatever the rightness of that assumption then, it is clear that this is a misguided approach now. No phonics programme or maths meeting will take the majority of children over the line in a system where teachers are telling I CAN that the lack of speech and language skills is becoming a majority issue, rather than a minority one.

Teachers are frustrated by the lack of national guidance and the lack of local capacity to provide support and specialist resources. The national leadership from the DfE is far outweighed by the scale of the problem.

At a recent parliamentary event, Nadhim Zahawi spoke very highly of the Nuffield Early Language Initiative – the one programme the government has directly funded. Hallelujah! Now his enthusiasm needs to be reflected in his Department's own strategies.

The consultation period through July must result in steps that will help to actually meet the 90 per cent white paper target by breaking the negative cycle identified in the green paper of needs being identified late and therefore escalating and becoming entrenched.

What needs to be done isn't complicated.
  • First, we need more training on speech and language for teachers at all levels. This is proportionate given that in most classrooms at least three children will have a long-term language issue.

  • Second, we need a standardised tool for teachers to identify children who are struggling, and national reporting to track trends.

  • Third, we need more evaluation of interventions that can make a difference so schools know where to turn for extra help. We currently have only one targeted spoken language intervention evaluated by the Education Endowment Foundation.
We know there is much that schools can do themselves, without needing to refer to stretched speech and language specialists in the NHS. But they need support to find the right, effective resources.

It's a really simple choice. The 90 per cent target won't be reached without this under-served 1.5 million children. So ministers must put the training, interventions and reporting in place, or accept that their aspiration is little more than wishful thinking.

Jane Harris is CEO of the children's speech and language charity I CAN.

(This is an edited version of an article first published in SchoolsWeek)

2030 vision: we need to talk about speech and language


Guest Column - April/May 2022
Andy Samways
10 reasons why reading aloud matters
The simplest sentences are often the most impactful. That was certainly the case in Roy Blatchford's monthly column in March:
"If you read no further than the end of this sentence, please watch the YouTube video Frank Cottrell-Boyce supporting the Essex Year of Reading - Essex County Council."
10 reasons why reading aloud matters (April/May 2022)

Guest Column - February 2022
Tom Duckling
Learning Strands
It is the start of term and for INSET day an engaging and inspirational speaker has been booked. It is a financial investment but they have a great reputation on the conference circuit and some glittering reviews.
Learning Strands (February 2022)

Guest Column - January 2022
Samantha Smith
Lead as yourself
When I was starting as a headteacher, I was given the advice, Remember to lead as you.
This is a most valuable piece of advice and one I often return to. And it has never been more important than in the past two years, when we have all been asked to give more than we ever thought we would.
Lead as yourself (January 2022)

Guest Column - December 2021
Jean Gross
Reaching The Unseen Children
This is an extract from Chapter Seven of Jean Gross's recently published 'Reaching The Unseen Children'
The seven secrets of self-efficacy
This is the most important chapter in this book. It is important because it introduces a concept which is relatively unfamiliar to educators, but profoundly important in improving outcomes for disadvantaged children.
Reaching The Unseen Children (December 2021)

Guest Column - November 2021
David Bartram OBE
Leading great SEND provision in schools
We appear to be making the leadership of SEND increasingly complicated. The danger of creating this overly complex approach is that it persuades teachers across the country that they may not be sufficiently expert enough to help children experiencing difficulty.
Leading great SEND provision in schools (November 2021)

Guest Column - October 2021
Cameron Mirza
The learning scientist
The critical success factor in the education system will always be the teacher. It is essential today that teachers are supported to develop the skills, subject knowledge, attitudes, behaviours, pedagogical content knowledge and digital skills required to thrive in the classroom environment. The recently published teaching report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Microsoft, laid stark some sobering data.
The learning scientist (October 2021)

Guest Column - September 2021
Harry Hudson
At the cutting edge
Teaching is moving at a pace, and there has never been a more exciting time to become a teacher. We know more now than we have ever known about how the brain works, and teachers can be more confident than at any time in history about the science of learning. What's more, there is still so much left to discover.
At the cutting edge (September 2021)

Guest Column - June 2021
By Old Cobbler
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish!
Ofsted blog: schools, early years, further education and skills
As the subject lead's blog on the Ofsted website explains, inspectors recently visited 24 primary schools, all rated excellent at their latest inspection, to assess the quality of their languages teaching.
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish! (June 2021)

Guest Column - May 2021
Dr Michael Lightfoot
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios
The long-term impact on education systems caused by the Great Pandemic of 2020/21 will take many years to play out. Emergency remote teaching became the mode through which education systems tried to overcome the impacts of school closures, and most schools turned to EdTech for solutions.
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios (May 2021)

Guest Column - April 2021
David Ingram
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19
During a particularly difficult stretch of the lockdown, my professional coach invited me to engage my curiosity. This prompted me to consider the enormity of the pandemic from an entirely different perspective. I remain curious. Necessity may have been the mother of invention during lockdown but as the world returns to a semblance of normality, school leaders will need to ponder next steps.
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19 (April 2021)

Guest Column - March 2021
Harry Hudson
Changing the image of teaching
Education is in the spotlight in a way it hasn't been for decades, and much has been said about how teaching can 'build back better' after the pandemic. Yet step back from all the talk of 'catch up funding' and ways our classroom practice can be improved by having taught online, and there's an even bigger picture.
Changing the image of teaching (March 2021)

Guest Column - February 2021
Marc Rowland
Culture
The most effective strategies give teachers and other staff the capacity, expertise, knowledge and development to meet the needs of their pupils and improve them as learners. Teacher agency and buy-in are fundamental to success. They all complement one another, working together to support the development of a culture of inclusivity where pupils' needs are understood and assessment drives action.
Culture (February 2021)

Guest Column - January 2021
Malcolm Wheeler
Online passages from India
The pandemic will be remembered in the words of Dickens as "the worst of times" and, in the most unintended ways, also "the best of times". Before the lockdown, the challenge for our kind of schools was finding the sweet spot between theoretical and experiential learning. After the move to virtual learning, it has become about finding our collective 'ikigai', or finding our reason for being.
Online passages from India (January 2021)

Guest Column – December 2020
Keith Grainger, Principal, Garth Hill College
The case for the defence: online learning
In a week when the government has threatened councils with legal action over decisions to switch to online learning over coronavirus fears, I feel the urge to celebrate the considerable merits of online learning. Such threats almost cast a slur on the very concept of online learning and, given our positive experience as a state secondary school, I am compelled to make a case for the defence.
The case for the defence: online learning (December 2020)

www.blinks.education    royb88@gmail.com     © Blinks 2022

Data privacy & security             Website by Relaxed