28 March 2022

The Department for Education has today published the schools white paper setting out the government’s long-term vision for the school system.

The white paper, Opportunity for all: Strong schools with great teachers for your child, sets out two key ambitions – that by 2030:

  • 90% of primary school children will achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by a third.
  • In secondary schools, the national GCSE average grade in both English language and in maths will increase from 4.5 in 2019 to 5.

In order to achieve these ambitions, the government commits to actions in four key areas:

  • Measures to support the teaching workforce, including training, development, recruitment and retention.
  • Actions around the curriculum, behaviour and attendance.
  • Targeted support for children who are behind in English and maths.
  • Changes to the school system, with an increasing role for multi-academy trusts.

The RCSLT welcomes the fact that the paper recognises the critical role of early language development in building strong foundations for literacy and numeracy. However, this does not go far enough.

The paper states: “Literacy and numeracy are the bedrock of a great education, unlocking the whole curriculum and turbocharging social mobility.” But language and communication skills underpin achievement in both literacy and numeracy, and access to learning across the curriculum.

In order to truly deliver opportunity for all, and especially for disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people, support for speech, language and communication should be embedded in the government’s proposals throughout the school years.

The paper also states: “We will need every actor in the system to play its full part in order to meet our literacy and numeracy ambitions.” However, there is no mention of the role of health partners, or the development of Integrated Care Systems. It is crucial that we see a join up between health and education at both the national and local level if we are to really improve outcomes for children and young people.

We look forward to working with the government, partner organisations, children and families, and our members, to inform the development of these plans so that every child is supported to realise their full potential.

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