Where to begin?
In areas of high social deprivation, between 40% and 56% of children start school with language delay. The links between communication, mental health and life outcomes are well documented. Positive inclusion practice, universal provision around Speech & Language Therapy (SLT) and adjustments to the learning environment will enable all children to develop their speech, language & communication (SLC) potential. Effective SLC skills are essential in enabling children to learn and access the curriculum.
With the right knowledge and information, everyone can make a difference to children’s communication, and therefore their wellbeing, attainment and lifelong outcomes. Recognition of this evidence by SLT and Education in East Ayrshire led to the creation of two SLT posts funded by the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) from 2017 to 2021. This innovative project would, and continues to, focus solely on creating universal support in partnership with SAC schools.
An asset based exercise was undertaken in April 2017. An asset based exercise based upon conversations with schools was undertaken in April 2017. From this and subsequent discussions, the main ambitions of the project were developed; including family engagement and communication friendly environments.
Our project aims to build capacity within East Ayrshire’s primary schools and the surrounding communities, to nurture the language and communication of all our children. This will improve attainment, mental health and life prospects for our communities. Quality Improvement methods have been used to test and hone training packages and school programmes to deliver on these ambitions.
Training packages and school programmes have been developed. The training packages have been successful in increasing knowledge and awareness of SLC, increasing education staff capacity to have conversations with families around SLC and to signpost them to services/resources, and in increasing education staff uptake of additional CPD around SLC.
Communication for Life Short Film
We also produced a short film called ‘Communication for Life’ which aims to raise awareness of SLC needs in children and young people and how to support SLC development. The video was well received via social media platforms and has had over 17, 000 views to date. You can find it on our NHS Ayrshire & Arran YouTube channel.
Our East Ayrshire Communication Friendly Environments Vision
A ‘Communication Friendly Environments’ accreditation programme is being developed in partnership between Speech & Language Therapy, Education and Educational Psychology. Our vision is that we will have one cohesive policy and accreditation programme for early years, primary, specialist provisions and secondary. We have been part of the CYPIC ‘Language meets Literacy Practicum’ for quality improvement support which has been a fantastic catalyst for our vision.
Data has a vital part to play in creating effective and supportive universal SLT programmes and has informed and supported all of our changes and innovations.
The development of partnership working and compassionate relationships between SLT and Education has been central to the success of our project so far.
The economic benefits of our preventative & early interventions are unlikely to be realised in the short term and require ongoing commitment and radical leadership from SLT and Education to allow us to provide proactive targeted and universal provision.
We will continue to provide our leaders with the positive data from our project to ensure continued support and funding, and to begin to provide an evidence base for universal SLT.
Scale / Spread
The project is looking at sustainability of our training packages to ensure impact beyond 2021. We will continue to work in partnership to achieve our aim of having an East Ayrshire Communication Friendly Environments programme to nurture the communication skills of all our children and young people in East Ayrshire.
Caroline Turtle Speech & Language Therapy Scottish Attainment Challenge: East Ayrshire
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- Law et al, Communication Support Needs: A Review of the Literature 2007
- Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists Speech, Language & Communication Capacity A National Asset 2017
- Scottish Government, Ready to Act in Action: An interim report on the implementation of the five ambitions across the allied health professions’ children and young people’s community in Scotland and recommendations to 2020 November 2018