Speaking up for the 1.9 million children at the Labour Party conference

October 27, 2023

At Speech and Language UK, we are dedicated to supporting the 1.9 million children in the UK who struggle to talk and understand words. We do that in lots of different ways. We provide tools and training to schools and nurseries to help them spot and support children with speech and language challenges. We help families of children who are struggling with advice and support. We run two special schools for children and young people who need the most help.  And we talk to MPs, government advisors and senior decision-makers about what needs to be done. 

As part of this work to influence politicians, we went to the Labour party conference recently to make sure the voice of children and young people who have speech and language challenges is heard by the people who might form the next government. 

Children who struggle with speech and language, do less well in school and are more likely to suffer with mental health problems and have trouble finding secure employment when they grow up. They are also more likely to get into trouble and end up in the youth justice system. Having the right support at the right time can change all that, but for too long, speech, language and communication skills have been overlooked in our education system. The vital role these skills play in supporting children to learn, make friends and thrive has been ignored and downplayed. Meanwhile, the number of children who struggle has continued to grow. 

We want this vicious cycle to stop so we went to sessions at the Labour party conference which were about early years and asked about support for children’s speech, language and communication.  Our CEO, Jane Harris, asked if a new Labour government would make sure there was a joined-up approach to tackling the issue, not just lots of piecemeal short-term initiatives.  The shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, Helen Hayes, acknowledged the importance of early language skills and thanked Speech and Language UK for all our work in supporting children and young people.  

We also went to sessions on teacher recruitment and retention and we asked about making sure that teachers learn about speech, language and communication skills and simple strategies to support all children in their classrooms as part of their initial training and in the first year of their teaching. At the moment, teachers are  playing catch up after they have qualified, and leaving them struggling to identify what is wrong with children’s behaviour and learning. We want them to have these skills from the start.  We know that teachers feel this knowledge is important and that they don’t currently get this training.  Decision makers and politicians on the panels agreed that speech language and communication skills is important, but we will still push for more of a commitment from Labour that they will address this. 

We will do more of this work as the election date draws nearer, with all political parties not just Labour.  If you have a child with a speech and language challenge or you work with one or you are a young person with a speech and language challenge tell us what you would like to ask MPs if you got the chance by emailing