In order to provide support to families with children who would benefit from additional help with their early speech and communication skills access to family reading sessions, local parenting pop ups and improved training for early years professionals will be provided as part of a £6.5 million investment. This is part of a Department for Education’s £8.5 million early years local government programme that is aimed at improving how local services work together to improve early language, communication and speech outcomes. Funded projects are aimed at supporting children to develop the language skills needed to be successful in school. Via this investment a range of experts such as health visitors, early years staff and family support workers will be trained to identify children with underdeveloped language communication and skills and provide support in the most disadvantaged areas of the country.
On average, disadvantaged children are four months behind their peers at age five. That grows by an additional six months by the age of eleven, and a further nine months by the age of sixteen. Consequently, an ambition to halve the proportion of children that finished Reception without the communication, language and literacy skills needed to be successful in school within the next decade was set out by government.
Eight projects will cover twenty-seven local councils which will share expertise and resources, bring education and health services closer together to help improve children’s outcomes by age five. The projects will create tools and techniques, including closer collaboration between education and health services, that will have lasting impact for children today and for future generations.
Information about the Projects:
Doncaster with Barnsley, Rotherham, Sheffield
Delays in early communication skills across areas with high numbers of disadvantaged families will be supported by ensuring that the same early services are accessible in all four councils. Councils will work on a collaborative vision for early years that includes plans to train more staff and improve data sharing so that the individual needs of every child is met.
Swindon with Gloucestershire
Children who are at risk of or display early signs of difficulty in language development through evidence-based early learning interventions will be supported.
Family reading sessions and ‘TALK Halton’ will be used to assess children aged two to four years old using a screening toolkit to identify early language needs. This aims to reduce the number of referrals to speech and language therapists by age the age of five. Led by specialists, workshops and training courses will provide the best support for families.
Wolverhampton with Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall
Working with the National Literacy Trust these councils aim to engage a range of professionals to introduce pop up sessions for parents and create a vision for early years to best support children in areas where literacy is low. In addition, the introduction of an online tool to inform parents of the different child development stages and provide tips and tools to use at home will be developed.
Leicester City with Derby and Nottingham City:
Projects will aim to improve access to early years support so that all disadvantaged families receive the same services across the region. This will be achieved by reviewing and sharing best practice on the speech, language and communication initiatives that are already available.
Expansion of the ‘Flying Start’ programme will take place. This gives parents support from pregnancy to their child’s fifth birthday and prioritises children’s communication and language skills. Workshops and information packs for families are aimed at creating better educational outcomes for young children resulting in improved employment opportunities in the future.
Staffordshire with Stoke-on-Trent:
Successful early learning projects in Stoke and Staffordshire will be scaled up. This includes the ‘Speak Out’ project which will train and support parents/carers and staff to make early communication development a priority. Work with the National Literacy Trust to offer free advice and information to help parents incorporate ‘Chat, Play and Read’ activities into their everyday life will also take place.
Salford with the 9 other Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) local authorities:
Utilising combined expertise across ten local authorities support for children who are most at risk of falling behind in their early learning will be put in place. A variety of ways to ensure every child has the maximum chance of being school ready, including speech and language programmes will be implemented.