24 June 2022
Today (24 June 2022), the RCSLT, Voice 21, the national oracy education charity, and I CAN, the children’s communication charity, have brought together over 35 organisations in support of probing amendments on spoken language and communication tabled to the Schools Bill by Lord Watson of Invergowrie.
The joint briefing we are publishing ahead of the final day of committee sets out why we support these amendments.
What do the amendments say?
Lord Watson two probing amendments are designed to test the government’s thinking on:
- the overall level of pupils’ spoken language and communication;
- the provision available to develop pupils’ spoken language and communication; and
- the support available to support pupils who have speech, language and communication needs.
Report on spoken language and communication
The first amendment would place a duty on the Secretary of State for Education to report on spoken language and communication.
Specifically, it states:
The Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament each year during the period of five years beginning with the day on which the Act is passed, setting out—
- The overall level of school pupils’ spoken language and communication ability in academies, independent educational institutions and maintained schools;
- The provision available to develop pupils’ spoken language and communication skills in academies, independent educational institutions and maintained schools;
- The provision available to support pupils with speech, language and communication needs in academies, independent educational institutions and maintained schools.
The second amendment relates to Ofsted inspections and provision relating to spoken language and communication skills.
Specifically, it states that:
- When inspecting schools, the Chief Inspector must assess the provision available to develop pupils’ spoken language and communication skills.
- Schools rated as “inadequate” in terms of such provision cannot be rated “good” or “outstanding” overall.
What are the amendments designed to achieve?
We hope the amendments will provide the government with the opportunity to clarify how they will ensure children are adequately supported in schools to develop proficiency in spoken language.
In the context of the Bill, by spoken language we mean:
- supporting all children to develop their speaking skills and learn effectively using classroom talk; and
- supporting children and young people with speech, language and communication needs – this includes those who speak using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and sign languages, such as British Sign Language.
We hope, therefore, that the government’s response to the amendments will set out:
- How the government will support schools to address the ongoing impact of school closures on children’s spoken language across all ages (1.5 million children and young people are at risk of being left behind with their speaking and understanding language because of the pandemic).
- How the government will raise the status of spoken language in the education system in order to reflect its importance to children and young people’s outcomes in education, as per the evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation.
- How the government will ensure that every teacher is equipped to understand how to develop children’s spoken language skills and ability, and can identify those who struggle with their speech, language and communication, and are in need of further support.
Who is supporting the amendments?
The importance of ensuring that pupils’ spoken language and communication skills are developed, and that those children and young people with speech, language and communication needs are supported to speak and communicate in a way that suits them best, is demonstrated by the broad range of organisations supporting Lord Watson’s amendments. They include professional associations, membership organisations, coalitions and charities in a number of fields where oracy and speech, language and communication matter.
List of organisations supporting the amendments
The RCSLT, Voice 21 and I CAN are very grateful to our partner organisations and colleagues for joining with us in support of these amendments. They include:
- ACE Centre
- Action Cerebral Palsy
- Action for Stammering Children
- ADHD Foundation
- ASLTIP – Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice
- Association of Youth Offending Team (YOT) Managers
- Better Communication CIC
- Big Change
- CICS Group – Cochlear Implanted Children’s Support Group
- Communication Matters
- Council for Disabled Children
- Dyspraxia Foundation
- English Speaking Board
- English-Speaking Union
- I CAN
- National Literacy Trust
- NDNA – National Day Nurseries Association
- Oracy Cambridge
- SAPHNA – School and Public Health Nurses Association
- Speaking Citizens
- Special Education Consortium
- Speech Bubbles
- The Children’s Trust
- The National Organisation for FASD
- The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
- Voice 21