2.6.21: Update to UK centres regarding remote and face-to-face assessment for the rest of the academic year

ESB Backs Campaign to improve Children’s Communication following Covid

Up to 1.5 million children face being left behind in their speaking and understanding due to disruption caused by Covid, research suggests.

Supported by ESB, Speaking Up for the Covid Generation (ican.org.uk) is produced by I CAN, a charity which aims to help children communicate.

ESB is part of their Communication Consortium on the research, joining other groups including Afasic, Autism Early Support, Better Communication, Commtap, NAPLIC, Speech Bubbles and Talking Mats and Voice 21.

In a BBC report last week highlighting I CAN’s research, it said that a majority of teachers are worried that children who are behind will not be able to catch up and that more help is needed for pupils starting secondary school.

For its report, I CAN asked primary and secondary school teachers across England, Scotland, and Wales about the impact Covid 19 had had on their pupils. It found slightly over two-thirds (67%) of primary school teachers believe the children they teach are behind with their speaking and/or understanding. Almost two-thirds (60%) of secondary school teachers, who have pupils who are behind, were worried that these pupils would not be able to catch up.

ESB’s Chief Executive, Tina Renshaw, says: “We fully support the findings from I CAN and believe more has to be done for children who have had their communication skills impacted by Covid. We feel it’s important to be part of this consortium. It also links into the work of the recent APPG on Oracy in which we play a significant role.

“Here at ESB, inspiring high-quality communication in people of all ages is something we continue to recognise. We believe good communication skills lie at the heart of social mobility and we’re here to support our learners to develop them through our assessments. Oracy provides a gateway, not only to improved reading and writing, but also to learning across the whole curriculum.

“As the report highlights, speaking and understanding language is a crucial skill which, in fact, underpins all learning. Our speech assessments give learners equal opportunities to develop these essential life skills, impacting them well beyond the classroom.”

The research suggests the two biggest reasons why children are struggling with speaking are not being able to talk face-to-face with their friends (70%), and the overuse of tablets/phones and computers (69%).

Jane Harris, I CAN Chief Executive says: “For 1.5 million children to be struggling to be able to speak and to understand what is being said to them should be a wake-up call to government and the education sector. Our survey shows that teachers in the classroom are not able to support the children who need their help because the support the government is offering is only for four and five-year-olds.”

There is no central initiative targeting older children in either primary or secondary education. Government spending plans include:

  • in England, £18m for early years
  • in Scotland, summer activities with a focus on wellbeing
  • in Wales, the recruitment of 1,800 extra school staff

A Department for Education official said: “Our national curriculum for English reflects the importance of spoken language in pupils’ development and we are investing in targeted support for those from disadvantaged backgrounds who may be at risk of falling further behind.”

The report emphasises the need for further support due to the negative impact Covid has had and highlights the correlation between an individual’s social interaction and the development of their key communication skills, stating that children in deprived areas are particularly at risk. ESB provides a range of qualifications for individuals with special educational needs and disabilities which help remove barriers to learning by enabling access to a wide range of curricula, building relationships and a sense of belonging, developing self-esteem and a positive self-identity. If you would like to find out more about these types of qualifications, please click here.

Says Tina, “We are passionate to close the disadvantage gap. ESB is already supporting disadvantaged learners to acquire key oracy skills through its 70/70 Campaign. Launched to mark ESB’s achievements over the past 70 years, our exciting initiative aims to find and financially support by 2023, 70 organisations where their young people or community members face disadvantage due to socio-economic factors, disability or migration status and would be supported in their aspirations if they could achieve an ESB qualification.

“The 70/70 Campaign is part of our purpose to stretch the most able and support the least confident and to realise the potential of all by closing the disadvantage gap. This campaign is not the first time that we have provided financial support to grant learners access to our qualifications. The 70/70 Campaign, however, provides an expansion on the support we already offer and aims to give confidence to learners providing them with a clear advantage as they progress through secondary schools, FE colleges, and employment.”

Tina concludes, “We strongly endorse I CAN’s findings that speaking and understanding language should be a core goal for Government in deciding the next steps in the education recovery plan. ESB’s aim is to support all learners to possess the communication skills needed in order to achieve their aspirations.

“Covid has created more need for support for children now more than ever. At ESB, we believe oracy to be at the heart of the learning experience. Our Speech assessments help learners to develop key oracy skills and are a clear path for oracy success. They build confidence in learners, something which is key to unlocking learners’ potential and raising achievement, developing their audibility of voice, choice of vocabulary and use of pace to communicate a message or information effectively. “

If you are interested in finding out more about our 70/70 Campaign and whether your centre is eligible for funding, please email business@esbuk.org. ESB can’t wait to hear from you!

I CAN’s Recommendations
1. English Government must enhance the Education Recovery plan so that there is support for all children who struggle with their speaking and understanding.
2. Governments need to make sure that speaking and understanding language is more core to our education system for years to come.
3. To ensure that every teacher has training to understand the importance of spoken language, how to support its development and identify those at risk.
4. Enable teaching staff to access training on how to develop children’s speaking and understanding skills.

Please click here to read the full report.


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