- Speech, language and communication skills play a crucial role in a child’s school readiness and ability to achieve their educational potential.
- However, not all children have the speech, language and communication skills they need to fully engage with their education.
- SLTs work directly with children, their families, and other education professionals to develop personalised strategies to support a child’s individual needs.
- They also provide training to education professionals so they can identify the signs of speech, language and communication needs and support them appropriately.
Impact on educational outcomes
How do speech, language and communication needs have an impact on a child’s ability to fulfil their education potential?
- Children with poor language and literacy skills at five years have lower education achievement at seven years (Snowling et al, 2011).
- One in four children who struggled with language at age five did not reach the expected standard in English at the end of primary school compared with one in 25 children who had good language skills at age five. (Save The Children, 2016)
- One in five children who struggled with language at age five did not reach the expected standard in maths at the end of primary school compared with one in 50 children who had good language skills at age five. (Save The Children, 2016)
- Children with poor speech, language and communication get fewer GCSE A-C grades than their peers. 15% achieve 5 A*-C GCSEs compared with 57% of all young people (Bercow, 2008).
See the RCSLT communication capacity factsheet (PDF) for more information on the intergenerational cycle of speech, language and communication outcomes.
Role of speech and language therapy in educational environments
SLTs will work with children and young people (CYP) within the full range of educational settings, from early years through to higher education.
The activities of SLTs working in children’s services can be directly linked to the achievement of outcomes for children and young people. The core role of an SLT working in education settings is to support and enable CYP to reach their full communicative and educational potential and remove or reduce the barriers that their speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) present to their learning.
There are different models for the delivery of therapy in educational environments, but all SLTs in these positions will:
- Work closely with other education professionals, providing training on recognising and responding to SLCN.
- Share information with all key individuals involved in the pupil’s education.
- Work closely with children and young people and their families/carers to provide tailored support.
- Advise staff on changes that can be made to the learning environment and wider setting which can optimise children’s communication development. This is sometimes known as creating a ‘communication friendly’ school/setting.
This may happen in:
- Whole classroom work with other education staff.
- Group work with pupils.
- One-on-one sessions with individual pupils or staff.
- Working with the senior leadership team to enable change.
For further information, see page 10 of RCSLT NAHT Guidance for education settings on commissioning (buying in) speech and language therapy services and training (2020) (PDF).
SLTs may be asked to work with all pupils, or just those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Education settings as commissioners
SLTs may be employed directly by educational settings or services may be commissioned through providers such as local authorities, the NHS, private organisations or parent/carers.
The following guidance has been produced in response to the changing commissioning context for speech and language therapy services in England. The context for commissioning is currently different in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. The guidance will have particular relevance anywhere that education settings are commissioning speech and language therapy services from providers other than the NHS. It is primarily aimed at education leaders wanting to know more about commissioning a speech and language therapy service, and/or training, directly from a speech and language therapy provider. It may be of interest to clinical commissioning groups; councils and local authorities; early years settings, schools and colleges; families and home educators; and members of the RCSLT.
It should be read in conjunction with other RCSLT publications.
It was compiled by a group of SLTs working in a variety of educational settings across the UK. It is supported by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).
- RCSLT NAHT Guidance for education settings on commissioning (buying in) speech and language therapy services and training (PDF), 2020
- Printable A4 version
See also: Public Health England’s Best start in speech, language and communication: Guidance to support local commissioners and service leads (2020).
Bercow: Ten Years On
In 2018, the RCSLT and I CAN, the children’s communication charity, published Bercow: Ten Years On. This is an independent review of provision for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs in England.
As a result of evidence gathered from children and young people, SLTs, parents and carers, education professionals, commissioners and others, the RCSLT and I CAN produced recommendations for change (PDF), calls to action (PDF) and resources to sit alongside the report.
Visit the Bercow: Ten Years On website to find:
- ‘How to’ information sheets for parents, educational professionals and others
- Practical activities
- Briefings for parents, educational professionals, children and young people, and others
Visit the RCSLT factsheets page for information on:
- Supporting children and young people
- Looked after children
- Social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing
- Working with young offenders
Other RCSLT resources
- RCSLT resources on developmental language disorder (DLD)
- For videos about a range of speech and language therapy activities, visit the RCSLT YouTube channel
Please contact us with any feedback on these pages.
Department for Children, Schools and Families (2008) The Bercow Report: A Review of Services for Children and Young People (0–19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs.
I CAN and RCSLT (2018) Bercow: Ten Years On – An independent review of provision for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs in England. Available on the Bercow: Ten Years On website.
Save the Children (2016) Early language Development and Children’s Primary School Attainment in English and Maths: New Research Findings. Available on the Save the Children website.
Snowling, M., Hulme, C., Bailey, A., Stothard, S. & Lindsay, G. (2011). Better communication research programme: Language and Literacy Attainment of Pupils during Early Years and through KS2: Does teacher assessment at five provide a valid measure for children’s current and future educational attainments? Research Brief. Online. Available at: gov.uk (PDF)