At a time when resources to support children with speech and language difficulties is at best inequitable or at worst inaccessible*, GL Assessment has unveiled a toolkit to help primary schools easily screen and support children with speech and language difficulties.
WellComm Primary has been created in conjunction with speech and language therapists at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust. It is designed to help schools quickly identify children aged six to 11 who may be struggling with their speech and language development and offer ideas for immediate support.
Importantly, it requires no specialist speech or language expertise to use, which means it can be used by anyone working with children in school.
Naomi Reed, one of the authors of WellComm Primary and a speech and language therapist at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “More than 10% of children and young people have communication difficulties. That’s over 1.4 million individuals whose struggles to communicate can impact on their ability to access learning, their ability to form friendships and can ultimately impact on their mental health.
“We are seeing that Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) are increasing in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. With longer and longer waiting times for children to be referred to a therapist, primary schools need a way to identify and support children earlier so they are not left behind. WellComm can help teachers assess children’s communication needs quickly and easily, and provide intervention straight away, without the need for any specialist skills.”
Mary Hartshorne, Director of Impact at I CAN, the children’s communication charity, said: “It is now well known that children’s early language is critical. Language ability at age five is the single most important factor in predicting literacy levels at age 11, and the most important early skill in helping children escape poverty.
“Despite this, there is no statutory need to monitor children’s spoken language beyond age five. I CAN’s report, ‘Bercow: Ten Years On’, found that many children with language difficulties are not identified early enough and often do not get the support they need. That’s why we welcome practical tools, such as WellComm, which give schools a tool to make children’s language a high priority.”
The assessment only takes 15 to 20 minutes per child and once the screening is complete, the results can be seen in an easy-to-read red, amber and green traffic light report so that interventions can be put in place immediately.
The Big Book of Ideas, which is part of the WellComm Primary package, provides around 50 fun activities and strategies that can be used to support children in their speech and language development. The activities are tailored according to ability and focus on particular areas of difficulty such as understanding, grammar, vocabulary, narrative or social skills. They can also be shared with parents and carers so pupils can continue to develop their skills at home.
Adam Boddison, Chief Executive at the National Association of Special Educational Needs (nasen) added: “Effective communication is central to children’s development and learning. We know the negative impact on attainment, confidence and self-esteem that problems with speech, language and communication can create, particularly when these issues are not picked up and addressed early.
“Identifying any difficulties in the early school years and intervening effectively is so important. To do this, schools need great assessment and identification tools as well as structured, evidence-informed programmes which can really make a difference.”
Hilary Fine, Head of Product at GL Assessment, said: “The simplicity of WellComm is its greatest strength as it means that no child’s communication issues will fall under the radar. With the ability for teachers to screen any child or group that they are concerned about in just a few minutes, schools will have a deeper understanding of where issues lie and will have instant access to a series of activities to help the child move forward.”
The WellComm Primary toolkit adds to GL Assessment’s speech and language portfolio, which includes the very popular WellComm Early Years toolkit for screening and intervention of children aged six months to six years old.
*Bercow: 10 Years On www.bercow10yearson.com
About GL Assessment
GL Assessment is the largest provider of assessments to UK schools. We specialise in assessments that help to reveal pupils’ potential, track their progress, and identify any barriers to learning they might have.