Language intervention for ‘certain’ disadvantaged children: A new £5M scheme to get disadvantaged children learning new words through reading and nursery rhymes has been announced by the Department for Education today.
The aim is to instil confidence in parents with extra support at home who will in turn support their children with language development and reading during the early years.
The scheme will be run by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) an independent charity which works towards breaking links between family income and educational achievement.
An additional £8.5M programme Early Years Social Mobility Peer Review Programme has also launched. This will enable local authorities to fund projects which will also improve language and literacy attainment for disadvantaged children in their area.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “This Government wants every child to have the best start in life which means mastering the basics of speaking, reading and writing at an early age. It is important that parents and families can feel confident about supporting their children so they can start school with the appropriate level of language and social skills.
This new support will help parents with early language learning at home by giving them practical advice on activities like reading and learning the alphabet which are so important in making sure no child is left behind.”
According to the government as they laud this programme, academic standards are rising and the attainment gap is narrowing. However, they say that ‘too many children arrive at school struggling with language and social skills, putting them at a disadvantage when they begin their formal education.’
The Department of Education finds that over the last 40 years, parents from ‘certain’ backgrounds are 37 percentage points less likely to be read to every day other than their peers.
But the statement issued by the DOE doesn’t delve into details about ‘disadvantaged’ children with apparent ‘word-gap’ who are potentially affected by Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).
Children with poor social skills could have a neurodevelopmental disability such as autism, Asperger’s, Dyspraxia or ADHD. These can cause language delays and poor social skills. Dyslexia is another specific learning difficulty from birth, which can affect and impact upon the ways children learn, process and understand language, physically read and remember and retain information.
With ever thinning Send budgets in schools due to government cutbacks, these children will still be failed. Services are not reaching them at critical points with long waiting lists and difficulty accessing Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapists.
Children with dyslexia are also slipping through the net because parents are having to self fund educational psychologist assessments and reports which can start from £500 upwards depending on where you are based in the country.
Children with Send are still going to be significantly disadvantaged when the start school whether they sing nursery rhymes or not. Robbing the education budget of essential specialist support in schools, which includes access to educational psychologists who can genuinely help put support in place for children with language difficulties, to throw the money at encouraging parenting basics is an insult.
Though they don’t specify which ‘certain’ children these are, the EEF will start their trial projects in the north of England. During these, they will find out what approach and intervention works best at improving children’s communication skills at home before the start of formal education.
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