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The Communication Trust worked with the Better Communication Research Programme to develop the What Works database of evidenced interventions to support children's speech, language and communication. What Works is endorsed by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
What Works supports practitioners to deliver evidence-informed interventions and approaches to support children and young people with speech and language challenges.
What Works is a moderated online library of evidenced interventions that aim to support children's speech and language.
What Works helps early years practitioners, teachers, school leaders, and speech and language therapists find the most appropriate interventions for children and young people by providing a free and easily accessible overview of the evidence base for each intervention. Although not designed for commissioners, What Works may also be a useful reference in the commissioning process.
Users can search for interventions by target group, age range, focus of the intervention, who it's delivered by and in what type of format. The evidence for each intervention is rated as 'strong', 'moderate' or 'indicative' as determined by an academic Moderating Group, with a summary of the evidence base and academic references provided.
What Works is maintained and further developed by the Moderating Group, representatives from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and The Communication Trust. This group meets quarterly to ensure that What Works remains as up-to-date and as comprehensive as possible through a robust and independent process to ensure quality and fairness of approach.
What Works has been developed from a report by the Better Communication Research Programme (BCRP). Please click here to read the full report entitled, 'What Works: Interventions for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.'
What Works aims to support decision making, not determine it.
What Works is designed primarily for practitioners - teachers, school leaders, early years practitioners, and speech and language therapists - to help you find the best interventions for those children and young people you work with that have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
What Works aims to provide the necessary information about a range of speech and language interventions to help practitioners make an informed decision about what will work best for them and the children and young people they work with. Please see how practitioners have used interventions on What Works on our page for case studies.
"Completely relevant: it collects in one place information and evidence about all approaches I use. Finally!" - Practitioner
Considering the range of evidence-based interventions available is essential when seeking the best way to support each child or young person, and What Works aims to make all this information available to practitioners in a free and easily accessible format.
What Works can help build a greater understanding of the available evidence base for speech and language interventions, and also aims to support practitioners and others to become a part of the process of developing the evidence. We welcome practitioners to get involved with this in a number of ways - you can:
To find out what others using What Works have to say about it, please click here to read a summary of our most recent survey.
Evidence updates - we will be providing regular evidence updates on recent research on speech, language and communication.
Projects and resources - to learn more about supporting children with speech and language challenges and to access resources please visit The Communication Trust website.
Training programmes - click here to reach the What Works evaluated speech, language and communication training programmes database.
Continuing Professional Development - for more information on how to evaluate and plan for continuing professional development click here for the Speech, Language and Communication Framework.
Speech and Language Therapy department - many of these provide useful information and resources. Click here to find your local department.
What Works allows users to search for interventions by target group, age range, focus of the intervention, who it's delivered by and in what type of format. For more detail, please see our explanation of the search terms.
There are three ways to view interventions:
Each listing provides information about the aims of the intervention, how it should be delivered and what evidence there is for the intervention. The evidence for each intervention is rated as 'strong', 'moderate' or 'indicative' as determined by a Moderating Group of academics. Please keep in mind that this classification refers to the design and strength of the research, not the outcomes for children. For more information on this, please see Understanding the evidence base.
Anyone can submit an intervention for review by the What Works Moderating Group at one of their quarterly meetings; in order to keep What Works as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible submissions and recommendations are very much encouraged.
The What Works Moderating Group
There is a robust and independent process in place to ensure quality and fairness of approach when making decisions on which interventions are included on What Works. A Moderating Group of academics review each new submission to the database and make a decision as to whether it should be included on the site. They will also categorise its current level of evidence as either 'indicative,' 'moderate,' or 'strong.' The members of the Moderating Group are:
Queen Margaret University
UCL Institute of Education
Dr. Deborah Gibbard
If you would like a new intervention to be considered for inclusion, complete both the criteria for inclusion form and the submission form. Return both of these along with supporting materials to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is an appeals process should those submitting interventions wish to dispute the decision of the Moderating Group. This is through completing this form, responding in detail to the specific feedback of the Moderating Group and including the evidence to support your appeal.
Practitioners play an essential role in helping to keep What Works a relevant and useful tool. We have received helpful feedback from users which has prompted some important changes to the site, so please do let us know about your experience of using What Works and anything you think we can do to improve it via e-mail at email@example.com.
We want to hear from practitioners who have used interventions on What Works. How have they worked in practice? How is your team using What Works to support evidence informed practice locally? Your experience of an intervention can provide useful information for other practitioners and help create a much fuller picture of how things work in practice. If you'd like to share your experience, we would love to hear from you. Click here to find out how.
If you have a recommendation for a new intervention for What Works, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Moderating Group plays a critical role in steering the development of What Works and setting criteria for inclusion.
The evidence around interventions for children and service delivery can be complex. What Works aims to be clear and transparent about what constitutes good evidence and to provide the necessary information about interventions that will make the site a useful tool to support decision making.
Although randomised control trials and systematic reviews are usually considered the gold standard of research, to avoid excluding interventions which may achieve good outcomes but which have not yet been evaluated in this way, we have not limited the evidence base to these levels.
Instead, we have included a range of evidence levels representing a good level of evaluation. A set of criteria is applied to every intervention, ensuring robust and transparent decisions are made on which interventions to include and at which level of evidence.
For more information on the evidence levels and the criteria, please see our guide, which explains each of the criteria in detail, and two new support documents authoured by James Law and Jenna Charlton. The guide and support documents explain how the Moderating Group make their decisions about which interventions to include and what makes up a good evidence base, as well as providing links to further information on accessing and conducting research.
It's essential whilst using the database to be aware of the important distinction between the strength of the evidence and the strength of the intervention's outcomes for children and young people. This is due to some interventions on the database not having wholly positive outcomes for children but still being included on the database because of the strength of research. Strong evidence doesn't necessarily mean an intervention works well. Equally other interventions may only be classed as "indicative" in terms of research design, but the outcomes for children look very good indeed.
It is therefore important when making decisions around which interventions to use not to choose interventions based solely on levels of evidence, as an intervention at a lower level of evidence may be more appropriate and may show better outcomes.
Looking at the effect sizes of interventions on specific outcomes can support practitioners to interpret whether an intervention is appropriate for their setting. Effect sizes of interventions can be viewed on theWhat Worksdatabase via a graphic which is linked to from each intervention’s page. Each graphic provides information on the outcome that the intervention had the largest effect on, the smallest effect on and the effect size for the primary outcome as stated by the researchers (in other words what the researchers were primarily looking at in their study).
Effect sizes were drawn from the study which provided sufficient evidence to calculate them given the means and standard deviations, these may not be representative of all the studies for this type of intervention.
Why do interventions not make it on to What Works?
Interventions are not included if they have limited or weak evaluations; or evaluation information is not readily available in the public domain.
In March 2014 The Children and Families Act received Royal Assent. It includes clauses on special education needs (SEN) which aim to reform the SEN system. These changes, known as the SEN and Disability Reforms, came into effect in September 2014, with a new SEND Code of Practice, the statutory guidance relating to the Children and Families Act.
The 2014 SEND Code of Practice applies to all organisations who work with and support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, including local authorities, health agencies, early years providers and all schools.
The Code emphasises the importance of 'high quality provision to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND', noting that this includes the use of evidence-based interventions and approaches. Educational settings, joint-commissioning arrangements and local authorities are therefore responsible for accessing the best evidence available on interventions and approaches to support children and young people.
More detail on what the Code of Practice says about evidence-based practice and how What Works supports this is available in our factsheet on What Works and the SEND Reforms.
Other resources on the SEND Reforms and speech and language challenges
The Communication Trust is committed to supporting all those implementing the SEND Reforms to meet the needs of children and young people with speech and language challenges and their families. In order to achieve this, we are working with the Department for Education, the Pathfinder programme, partners across the VCS sector, and professionals that make up the children's workforce.
You may also be interested in our other work to support practitioners to deliver the 2014 SEND Code of Practice, including:
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