Our response to

Government response to House of Lords Committee on 11-16 years education

By George Carr, Public Affairs Manager

February 20, 2024

The government has said that “oracy skills are essential for pupils’ development” but has ruled out doing anything about it. The government were responding to a House of Lords committee report on 11-16 years education published in December 2023.  

We had contributed to the inquiry that led to the report and we were pleased that communication skills (oracy) were mentioned in the final publication of the committee. In the report, the committee said: 

  • Oracy is an essential skill for pupils to develop in preparation for their future life and work, but it may not be being consistently prioritised by schools in the 11– 16 phase. 
  • As part of a wider review of the key stage 3 and GCSE curricula, the Government should embed opportunities for oracy and communication skills development. 

Yesterday (19th February 2024), the government responded to the committee report. They acknowledged the importance of communication skills but ruled out any possibility of reviewing the curriculum or doing anything proactive to address the growing number of children and young people struggling with talking and understanding words. 

At Speech and Language UK, we want to see communication skills embedded in all levels of education. The government even acknowledges “oracy skills are essential for pupils’ development, not only in English but across the curriculum – cognitively, socially and linguistically”.  

Communication skills are crucial for children and young people’s education and well-being. Children who struggle with talking and understanding words are more likely to struggle to read, write and do maths. We know that young people with language difficulties are over three times less likely to achieve a grade 5 or above in GCSE Maths and English. They are also more like to have mental health problems, end up in the criminal justice system and more likely to be out of work as an adult. 

It is disappointing that the government aren’t prepared to consider anything ambitious when it comes to the teaching of communication skills for 11-16 year olds, especially in light of the growing number of children struggling with talking and understanding words. From our own report published last year, we know that there are 1.9 million children struggling with talking and understanding words, up from 1.7 million in 2022. 

With the election coming up, we need all parties to recognise the importance of communication skills throughout the education system. They can do this by making sure they include the following in their manifestos: 

  • Commit to training everyone who works with children to spot children who are struggling and support their speech, language and communication skills. 
  • Fund evidenced catch-up programmes and put them in every school and nursery in the country.