A pioneering initiative to transform language and communication support in schools

The project

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), alongside scholars from the ATLAS Leiden project, led by Professor Maria J Arche of the University of Greenwich, have come together to produce the ATLAS Think Language First Manifesto. This declaration embodies a bold new direction aimed at fundamentally transforming how language and communication difficulties are addressed in our school systems.


The manifesto’s vision

Endorsed by over 50 organisations in the United Kingdom and additional bodies across Europe, the ATLAS manifesto presents a forward-thinking vision to ensure every child and young person can achieve their highest potential. It highlights language as a foundational pillar for educational success and overall well-being. Recognising that approximately 10% of children in schools encounter language challenges, the manifesto calls for broad recognition of the profound impact unmet language needs have on behavioural issues, educational exclusion, and increased risks of unemployment and criminal activities.


Action plan for international awareness

The manifesto proposes a comprehensive action plan to establish an international platform for raising awareness about language needs. This initiative aims to foster the exchange of research and expertise, promote best practices, and advocate for policymakers to ensure systematic identification and support for children with language needs. It outlines steps for integrating language support into educational and health systems, implementing regular language assessments, and ensuring access to interdisciplinary support teams.


The launch event

The ATLAS Think Language First manifesto was unveiled during an extraordinary event at the House of Lords in January 2024 sponsored by Lord Boateng, Chancellor of the University of Greenwich. At the heart of the launch, a roundtable chaired by Dr Alexandra Perovic, Associate Professor of Linguistics at UCL, brought together scholars, practitioners, and experts. This forum underscored the importance of language as a key to unlocking educational achievements and enhancing personal well-being.


Unprecedented support and recognition

The launch event witnessed significant attendance from parliamentarians, politicians, and leaders of organisations across Europe, demonstrating broad-based support for the initiative’s critical importance. The successful introduction of the manifesto signifies a collective commitment to overcoming language and communication barriers, showcasing a collaborative effort that transcends national and cultural boundaries.


Voices from the event

The launch incorporated a roundtable featuring contributions from practitioners and professionals from across Europe.

We are grateful to the following for sharing their speeches with us.


Looking Forward

The ATLAS Think Language First manifesto not only sets a new precedent in addressing language and communication challenges but also marks the beginning of an international effort to implement effective policies and practices. The launch at the House of Lords is just the start of a broader movement to endorse and implement the manifesto’s principles across many countries, addressing common issues and fostering a global community committed to supporting language development.