Listening to unheard children

A shocking rise in speech and language challenges

Teachers now estimate 1.9 million children are behind with talking and/or understanding of words. This is the highest number ever recorded!

Read our new Listening to unheard children report, for our findings and recommendations after surveying more than 1,000 teachers across the UK.

 Read our new report 

For children who struggle to talk and understand words, their whole lives are affected. They are six times more likely to fail English tests at 11 and eleven times less likely to pass maths. They are also twice as likely to have a mental health problem, and twice as likely to be unemployed as an adult.

We believe that every child should be able to get speech and language support when they need it so they aren't left behind.

Here are nine solutions to transform the lives of 1.9 million children, their families and our country:

  1. Introduce a new tool for schools to track talking and understanding words at Key Stage 1 and 2 in the same way that every school tracks literacy and numeracy skills.
  2. Train all teachers and early years practitioners to spot which children are struggling with talking and understanding of words and know how to help or where to refer them to.
  3. Produce guidance for teachers and schools about what evidence-based tools and programmes work for children with speech and language challenges, especially those that can be delivered by schools without specialist support.
  4. Update Ofsted guidelines to include more ambitious language goals for educational institutions on speech, language and communication. For example, all good nurseries should help children to use new vocabulary and speak with increasing confidence and fluency, not just outstanding ones.
  5. Incentivise the new Integrated Care Boards to work with local authorities and make sure there is support on language skills from the start of new parents’ journey; just as it is for feeding or vaccinations.
  6. Change guidance for Family Hubs, which currently actively disincentives any programmes for children on language and communication before the age of 3.
  7. Ask the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to develop guidance on Developmental Language Disorder so that there is more clarity about what support the NHS should provide and what children with speech and language challenges and their families can expect.
  8. Work with experts on proper workforce planning, making sure there is enough specialist support available for children with life-long challenges and bringing down the 25% vacancy rate for children's speech and language therapists in the NHS year-on-year.
  9. Fund a more ambitious campaign to shift families’ behaviour and prevent speech and language challenges developing, building on learning from the Government funded Hungry Little Minds and alongside the BBC's Tiny Happy People.
Read the full report

You can help now

1. Share this report on social media and help 1.9 million children’s futures.
Use the hashtag #UnheardChildren to join the conversation.

2. Sign our pledge

For educators and professionals

Take a look at Talk Boost, our programme for children in nursery, reception, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. Run in small groups by a trained member of staff, they are proven to help children improve their skills, with half catching up with their peers after just eight to ten weeks.

Discover Talk Boost
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For families


Take advantage of our free enquiry service and TALK webinars, which allow you to talk through your concerns and equip yourself with the knowledge to support your child at home.

Talk to a speech and language therapist
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