Early years and childcare
We believe there is a need for more high-quality early years care providers, who have the training necessary to recognise speech and language challenges and have programmes and resources they can use and resources to draw on to give children the best possible chance when entering primary school.
We believe that through services like Family Hubs and good quality public information campaigns, parents and carers should understand the importance of developing speech, language and communication skills in early childhood and be given support to develop good habits around communicating with their babies.
After the last few years, with lockdowns and disruption to the lives of young people across the UK, the number of children with speech and language challenges has increased dramatically, and there have not been adequate programmes so far to help address this problem. The current Government’s Covid recovery programmes have done nothing to reverse this trend. Instead, the number of children estimated to have speech and language challenges has increased from 1.5 million in 2021 to 1.9 million in 2023. This has a knock-on effect on children’s behaviour and wellbeing, which means that early years staff find they are dealing with an increasingly challenging group of children without the knowledge and resources to support them. This leads to retention issues as staff feel they can’t cope and don’t know how to help and so leave the profession. Proper training and an expanded specialist workforce will help more generally with staff retention.
Through direct pressure in parliament and Whitehall, we are hoping to change things. We are asking politicians to:
- Make sure there is a joined-up approach to speech, language and communication for young children. They can do this by ensuring that everyone involved in supporting families knows about speech and language and has access to tools and programmes to help. This means that local areas will have pathways of support from birth to starting school.
- Fund a family-led campaign to shift families’ behaviour to help prevent speech and language challenges developing. We believe this should follow the model of obesity and smoking cessation campaigns.
- Make sure all early years staff are trained to identify a child struggling with their talking and understanding of words and know how to help as well as where to refer them for support and possible diagnosis.
- Ensure families and practitioners have access to programmes that are proven to work to support children so they don’t develop problems or can catch up when they are struggling.
- Ensure there is proper workforce planning and training, with the government working with us and our partners in SEND in the Specialists coalition, to ensure there is enough specialist support available for children with life-long challenges.