News | Our response to | Press

Speech and Language UK response to Spring Statement

March 5, 2024

We are disappointed that the Chancellor has missed another opportunity to help the 1 in 5 children with speech and language challenges in the UK in the Spring Budget.

While the Chancellor rightly acknowledged that no economy can prosper without investing in the skills of its people, he has not done anywhere near enough to address communication skills, which employers say are among the most important, especially for entry-level jobs. No economy can thrive when so many children and young people struggle to talk and understand words.   

After a disappointing Autumn Statement, Jeremy Hunt had one more chance before there’s a general election. The chancellor could have 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 speech, language 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 this training needs 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 must pay commercial rates to do this.  We believe this new tracking tool would cost around £8.5 million.  

Training: Fund training for all teachers and teaching assistants to identify a child struggling with their talking and understanding of words. This training should include how to help as well as where to refer children for support and diagnosis.This could be done by changing the existing initial teacher training, and would be a very modest cost to the Exchequer. It would have a huge impact on teacher’s confidence helping the 1.9 million children struggling with talking and understanding words. 

Supporting families: Government currently funds 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.