Our response to

Our Autumn Statement response

November 22, 2023

With the Autumn Statement today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, has set out the government’s spending priorities. While the Chancellor rightly acknowledged that no economy can prosper without investing in the skills of its people, he has done nothing to improve outcomes for the 1 in 5 children with speech and language challenges in the UK. This is short-sighted in the extreme as employers say that communication skills are among the most important for entry-level jobs. No economy can thrive when so many children and young people struggle to communicate.  

Jeremy Hunt may have one more chance next year, before there’s a general election. If we get a Spring Statement, the chancellor could make a significant difference to children and their families by: 

Extending the Early Years Professional Development Programme: It’s a great programme improving early years staff skills in speechlanguage and communication, maths skills and emotional development. The programme is ending in March 2025 and will only have reached 3% of the current early years workforce. We’re currently helping to deliver it, alongside the Education Development Trust. But whoever runs it, we   need this training to reach far more of the early years workforce. We believe the government should invest a further £19 million to extend the programme and offer the training to more of the workforce. 

Tracking tool: Commission a new free tool for schools. Like those available to track literacy and numeracy, that can be used at the start of KS1 and KS2 by class teachers to measure and track children’s talking and understanding of words. This will help them to spot when children are struggling in these areas. Currently schools have to pay commercial rates to do this.  We believe this would cost around £8.5 million. 

Training: Fund training for all teachers and early years staff to identify a child struggling with their talking and understanding of words and know how to help as well as where to refer them for support and possible diagnosis. This would require changing the existing teacher training, but would be a very modest cost to the Exchequer, and would have a huge impact on teacher’s confidence helping the 1.9 million children struggling with talking and understanding words. 

Supporting families: Government funds effective campaigns to give families information about vaccines and healthy eating, but not currently about speech, language and communication development.  We call on the government to spend £10 million on an effective campaign to ensure that families have the information they need to support their child’s skills.