30 January 2024

In a pioneering event, the ATLAS Think Language First manifesto is being launched at the House of Lords today (Tuesday, 30 January).

Sponsored by Lord Boateng, Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, alongside the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and scholars from the ATLAS Leiden project, led by Professor Maria J Arche of the University of Greenwich, this launch event will introduce the Think Language First Declaration, a bold new direction for tackling language and communication difficulties in our school system.

The launch also incorporates a roundtable of academics, practitioners, and professionals offering their perspectives on why we must Think Language First. The roundtable is being chaired by Dr Alexandra Perovic, Associate Professor of Linguistics at UCL. The roundtable will highlight how language ability is the gateway to attainment and well-being.

The ATLAS manifesto, which has been endorsed by over 50 organisations in the United Kingdom, and more from other European countries, outlines a forward-looking vision to guarantee that every child and young person achieves their highest potential, with language highlighted as a key pillar for educational success and overall wellbeing.

It points out that around 10% of children in schools face language challenges and calls for broad recognition of the significant impact of unmet language needs on behavioural issues, educational exclusion, and a higher likelihood of unemployment and criminal activities.

The manifesto also proposes a detailed action plan to establish an international platform to raise awareness about language needs. This initiative seeks to foster the exchange of research and expertise across various fields, encourage the adoption of best practices, and call on policymakers to ensure the systematic identification and support of children with language needs. Additionally, it outlines steps for incorporating language support into educational and health systems, enforcing regular language assessments, and ensuring access to interdisciplinary support teams.

The launch event will see significant attendance from parliamentarians, politicians, and leaders of organisations throughout Europe, illustrating the broad-based support and recognition of the initiative’s critical importance. The successful introduction of the manifesto highlights a shared dedication to overcoming language and communication barriers, showcasing a collaborative effort to find solutions that transcend national and cultural boundaries.

Read more information on ATLAS.

Find out more about the manifesto.

View the international team behind the manifesto.

The list of organisations endorsing the manifesto are:

  • Ace Centre
  • Action Cerebral Palsy
  • Action for Stammering Children
  • ADHD Foundation – The Neurodiversity Charity
  • Afasic
  • Ambitious about Autism
  • ASLTIP (Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice)
  • Association of YOT Managers
  • Auditory Verbal UK
  • Autistica
  • BAAL (British Association for Applied Linguistics)
  • BACCH (British Association for Community Child Health)
  • BACD (British Academy of Childhood Disability)
  • British Association of Clinical Linguistics
  • BATOD (British Association of Teachers of Deaf Children and Young People)
  • Better Communication CIC
  • British Association of Social Workers (BASW)
  • British Dyslexia Association
  • British Psychological Society
  • CICS Group (Cochlear Implanted Children’s Support Group)
  • CLIE (Committee for Linguistics in Education)
  • Different Strokes
  • Dingley’s Promise
  • Disabled Children’s Partnership
  • Down’s Syndrome Association
  • Elklan
  • Embracing Complexity Coalition
  • ESLA (European Speech and Language Association)
  • Headlines Craniofacial Support
  • Intermediaries for Justice
  • Kids
  • LAGB (Linguistics Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
  • NASS (National Association of Special Schools)
  • NatSIP (National Sensory Impairment Partnership)
  • NDTi (National Development Team for Inclusion)
  • Pace
  • pdnet
  • RCSLT (Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists)
  • SAPHNA (School and Public Health Nurses Association)
  • sen.se
  • Signalong
  • Speaking Citizens
  • Special Needs Jungle
  • Speech & Language Link
  • Speech and Language UK
  • Speech Bubbles
  • SPTS (Specialised and Personalised Training Services)
  • Symbol UK
  • Talking Mats
  • The Elizabeth Foundation
  • Voice 21