Measuring the impact of support for spoken language

Measuring the impact of support for spoken language

Despite the crucial nature of spoken language for better academic outcomes, social skills, friendships and employment, there is no statutory requirement to report on progress in spoken language after five years of age.
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Given what is known about the impact of spoken language on academic success, schools should regularly monitor pupils’ progress in this area. This will ensure pupils are reaching language milestones as expected and identify when further support is needed. There are several available tools for monitoring spoken language, including:

  • Communicating the Curriculum – a free, downloadable, practical resource which will help primary schools to define and monitor children's progress in spoken language.
  • Progression Tools – checklists to identify children who may be struggling to develop their spoken language skills. They can also be used to track progression of these skills over time or following targeted or specialist support to measure impact. Available for Early Years, Primary and  Secondary. Available for Early Years, Primary and  Secondary.

Some targeted intervention programmes include Tracker tools, allowing schools to monitor the impact of the programme and identify students requiring further support.

How schools can effectively monitor progress in spoken language

How could schools most effectively monitor progress in spoken language, given the lack of statutory requirement?

This factsheet shared as part of the No Pens Day Wednesday campaign has some helpful ideas. Also, take some time to explore the examples of tools for monitoring spoken language listed above.

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Addressing the issues around measuring impact

1. The missing children

Many children with speech, language and communication needs do not have their needs accurately identified, or they are identified late. To ensure that children with needs are identified early, schools should ask themselves the following questions:


  • What systems are in place in our school to ensure children have their SLCN identified early, and appropriate support put in place?

    • Identification tools (see above) used to identify children struggling with spoken language.
    • Use of local prevalence information to predict the likely numbers of children who will be struggling in our setting.
    • A focus on speech, language and communication throughout the school, including high-quality communication supportive teaching practices for all pupils.
    • Information about typical language development and possible indicators of concern available to all staff.
  • What training and professional development opportunities do staff have to ensure they are aware of possible indicators of SLCN?

    • A whole school commitment to supporting spoken language, including a planned and structured professional development programme for staff.
    • Observations and consequent feedback include consideration of inclusive high quality communication-supportive teaching practices.
    • Inset training regularly includes information about speech, language and communication/SLCN.
    • Use of the Speech, Language and Communication Framework to identify training needs and routes to continued professional development.
  • How are specialist services used in our school to support identification of need?

    • Close links with specialist services, including training and mentoring opportunities.
    • Children and young people are (re-)referred to specialist services at times of increased need. This may be at key points such as transition or at times when academic and/or social demands are increased.
2. Spoken language is not prioritised in the curriculum

Consequently, schools need to make spoken language a priority themselves. Questions for schools to ask include:


  • How do we ensure spoken language is prioritised across our school?

    • Systems are in place to track spoken language.
    • Regular training and updates take place, keeping spoken language and its impact across the curriculum high on the agenda.
    • We have appointed a spoken language lead in school.
    • Spoken language and SLCN are included in key school policies.
  • How do we measure progress in spoken language?

    • Appropriate tools are used to monitor children's spoken language regularly.
    • We have a school policy for monitoring progress in spoken language.
    • Progress in spoken language is shared regularly with Governors, parents, and Ofsted.
3. Staff do not feel confident in identifying and supporting SLCN

Teachers recognise the importance of children’s language but feel under-confident in teaching and monitoring progress, and in identifying and supporting those with SLCN. In a recent survey 59% of respondents reported having little or no initial training in identifying and supporting children with SLCN. Questions schools should ask include:


  • How do we ensure staff understand SLCN and know how to identify children who are struggling?

    • Access to external training and information about identification of and support for pupils with SLCN.
    • Identification tools and checklists used routinely to identify those who are struggling.
    • Information available to all staff about typical language development and ways to measure children’s language skills.
    • Regular inset training about spoken language and the crucial role it plays across the curriculum.
    • Mentoring for less experienced staff from a spoken language lead in the school.
  • How do we ensure the children in our school get the support they need for their SLCN?

    • A three-tier approach to supporting children’s spoken language is in place (universal, targeted and specialist support across the school).
    • Universal high-quality teaching practices are in place to support the spoken language skills of all pupils.
    • Use of targeted interventions and targeted support for children with poor language.
    • Close links with specialist services and clear referral routes.
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