"Spoken language is key to achieving School White Paper ambitions," say All-Party Parliamentary Groups

02 March 2022

"Spoken language is key to achieving School White Paper ambitions," say All-Party Parliamentary Groups

I CAN has joined a call to government to recognise spoken language as central to developing children’s literacy and numeracy.

At a recent event organised with the All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) on Oracy and Speech and Language Difficulties, the Schools Minister, Robin Walker heard from I CAN’s Chief Executive, Carol Payne, on the difference that a focus on spoken language can make in these areas.

The meeting comes just weeks after Voice 21, RCSLT and I CAN published a joint position statement on the centrality of spoken language to developing literacy and numeracy skills.

After listening to Parliamentarians who are members of the APPGs as well as the three organisations, the Minister said he recognised that spoken language is fundamental to learning and to meeting targets in literacy and numeracy.

Schools Minister, Robin Walker said: “It is my personal mission to help make England a world leader in literacy, and spoken language development is a core part of those plans. We have already set an ambitious target for 90 per cent of children leaving primary school to meet the expected standards in reading, writing and maths by 2030. In the coming weeks and months, my department will set out our long-term plan through the Schools White Paper, to deliver on our ambition for every child to have the right support and the right time to fulfil their potential.”

Within the meeting, Voice 21, RCSLT and I CAN argued that the Schools White Paper provides an important opportunity to address educational inequality and the negative impact the pandemic has had. 

To deliver that, the White Paper must ensure:

  • Spoken language is recognised as critical for the development of literacy and numeracy;
  • Identifying and tackling underlying difficulties with spoken language is seen as key to tackling illiteracy and innumeracy;
  • All children’s spoken language skills, especially those in the more deprived areas, are supported and developed through purposeful and intentional teaching throughout their school years; 
  • Children with persistent spoken language difficulties receive the support they and their teachers need so they can achieve their educational potential.

A further joint APPG meeting will take place on this issue with the Minister in attendance and we will be looking at ways of working with government officials to embed the centrality of spoken language to children’s education, in the near future.

[The full statement is here]


Follow-up comment from I CAN

Spoken language and the development of children’s literacy and numeracy - I CAN responds

Recently we tweeted about the importance of recognising spoken language when developing children’s literacy and numeracy.

Children ‘speak’ in lots of different ways, with many using AAC and other ways of communicating. We are committed to supporting all children to make sure their voice is heard.

We engage with many partners to highlight the communication challenges children face with SLCN and we are always willing to listen.

The opportunity to communicate is a basic human right, and we are working hard to support that.


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