I CAN’s Statement for the Queens Speech 2022

10 May 2022

I CAN’s Statement for the Queen’s Speech 2022

The new Schools Bill in the Queen’s Speech emphasises the educational ambitions of the Government to give all children the best start in life, linking it to the target for 90% of all children to achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths at the end of primary school. Yet, there is little in the proposed legislation on wider measures to help children with speaking and understanding language. The Government’s plans for legislation this year contain measures for all schools to join multi-academy trusts, introducing registers for children not in school and giving Ofsted more powers to crack down on unregistered schools.

To meet this ambition on expected standards, it is crucial that the right support is put in place to help children struggling to speak and understand language. This support is central to learning across the curriculum because we know that spoken language* underpins literacy development and vocabulary acquisition, including in maths.

So, without concrete proposals on spoken language in the Queen’s Speech (and in the SEND and AP Green Paper and Schools White Paper) it’s doubtful whether the Government will achieve their target.

The Queen’s Speech 2022 also represents a moment for reflection on the state of speaking and understanding language difficulties after the pandemic. We are no longer in that crisis but the level of need stemming from it in respect of spoken language is still pressing.

As a recent poll on the impact of the pandemic from KindredSquared confirms– children are behind in their basic language skills and need support to catch up. KindredSquared found 9/10 teachers had at least one pupil in their class that did not have even basic language skills on their first day of school.  There needs to be more done in this area and I CAN will be making that point to those in Government and the Civil Service.

Given how fundamental the development of children’s speaking and understanding skills are to unlock all learning, it is vital that every teacher is equipped to identify difficulties in this area, to know how to support children who are struggling and to know where to refer children who may need more specialist help.  

Recently, I CAN alongside the Oracy All Party Parliamentary Group and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, published a Briefing for Parliamentarians on the Queen’s Speech (you can read it here) and a Policy Position Statement on the centrality of spoken language to developing literacy and numeracy skills (you can read it here).

* In this document, for ease we use ‘spoken language’ throughout. We take a broad and inclusive definition. We are talking about supporting children through oracy. We are also talking about supporting children and young people with speech, language and communication needs. This includes those who speak using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and sign languages, such as British Sign Language.


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