Our response to

Our response to ‘The Covid kids starting school unable to speak’ (BBC News, 29th Nov 2023)

December 1, 2023

It comes as no surprise to read about the devastating impact of Covid-19 and the impact that delays to accessing speech therapy services has had on children and their families.  

The wait for speech and language therapy, leads to children and families becoming increasingly frustrated and distressed.  For some children it may mean they can’t cope in school and will struggle to make friends. We know that long term, unaddressed speech and language challenges are linked with poor mental health and youth offending.  

1.9 million children in the UK are behind with talking and understanding words. For children who have speech and language challenges, delayed support can have a massive knock-on effect on their education and emotional development, with ramifications being felt long into their adult lives. Children struggling to talk and understand words are six times less likely to pass basic English tests and eleven times less likely to pass basic Maths.  

Access to Speech and Language Therapists is important but many children can be helped in-school.   If staff working in nurseries and schools understand how speech and language develops better, they can  spot and support more children with speech and language challenges. They can then refer to specialists the minority of children who really need specialist support. Similarly, Health Visitors can help to spot children who are struggling early by using the free Early Language Identification Measure (ELIM).

Government can help by giving a free tool to schools to track children’s speech and language development, by providing funding to train more staff in how to help and by making sure every school understands the links between talking and understanding words, learning to read and write and being successful at maths. Too many schools focus on the latter without understanding that the bedrock to all learning is good speech, language and communication skills.    The numbers of children struggling with talking and understanding words mean we need a majority of schools to embrace this link, rather than the current minority.  

Jane Harris, Speech and Language UK, Chief Executive   

Read the BBC’s article, ‘The Covid kids starting school unable to speak’ here.