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New Research on Speech, Language and Communications Needs for Children

Professor Geoff Lindsay, University of WarwickThe largest ever research programme in the UK on speech, language, communication needs (SLCN) has been conducted by a research team led by the University of Warwick and was published on Thursday 27th December 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.

The BCRP was based in the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) at the University of Warwick, led by Professor Geoff Lindsay, together with Professor Julie Dockrell (Institute of Education, University of London), Professor James Law (Newcastle University), and Professor Sue Roulstone (University of the West England, Bristol).

Professor Lindsay says: “Our work highlighted the importance of appropriate support for the language skills of all children in classrooms to minimise disadvantage and to raise attainments. For those children and young people with language and learning needs it is essential to identify evidence informed interventions that take into account the experiences of all children. Early intervention using evidence based methods is crucial. It is particularly important to consider the demands of different types of schools and the children’s needs at different stages of their development”.

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.

Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister, said:

“Communication is fundamental to all learning. It is vital that children with speech, language and communication needs get the support they deserve as soon as possible.

“The Better Communication Research Programme provides a rich and extensive source of evidence on what works in identifying the needs of children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.

“It will help all those commissioning and providing services, across education and health, to improve their planning. It will also improve the effectiveness of the support provided.

“The programme has developed practical resources for schools to use in developing a welcoming classroom that support communication.”

Editor’s Notes:

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.

For access to the BCRP reports (from 27.12.12 after embargo) go to:

More information about the BCRP go to:

For further information please contact:

Professor Geoff Lindsay, Director
Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR)
University of Warwick

Peter Dunn, email:
Head of Communications, Communications Office, University House, University of Warwick,
Tel: +44(0)24 76 523708 Mobile/Cell +44(0)7767 655860

PR225 27th December 2012