Materials to help identify and support SLCN pupils


Problems with the poor identification of students with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) has led to the launch of a new range of tools to help school staff to support 11 to 18-year-olds.

Experts are concerned that SLCN is often misidentified at secondary school as some other kind of SEN, or even not identified at all. This is despite SLCN being the most common type of need for primary school pupils.

It is estimated that 10 per cent of children and young people in the UK have some form of long-term SLCN. This equates to more than one million young people, or two to three in every classroom. However, only three per cent of the school population is identified as having SLCN.

Research also shows that 13.8 per cent of young people with SLCN achieve five GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and maths, compared to 70.4 per cent of all young people.

In a bid to tackle the problem, the new “Progression Tools” have been designed by experts in collaboration with teachers, SENCOs and teaching assistants. 

They have been published by the Communication Trust, a coalition of more than 50 not-for-profit organisations working in this area, and are available to support students aged 11 and 12, 13 and 14, and 16 to 18.

In line with the new SEND Code of Practice, the tools help staff to identify if students would benefit from a targeted intervention or specialist assessment by a speech and language therapist.

Shona Crichton, an expert speech and language therapist who helped develop the resources, said: “Each tool contains questions to ask the students, structured observations of language and communication skills within the classroom and information for staff on how to administer the tools and score and interpret the results.

“While the tools do not replace a detailed speech, language and communication assessment by a speech and language therapist that some young people will need, it will help schools to target interventions and support more effectively.”

Anne Fox, director of the Communication Trust, added: “Young people with SLCN in the UK are slipping through the net at secondary school and this is unacceptable. Their needs are often misunderstood, misinterpreted or just missed altogether and we need to support our teachers and school staff to tackle this head on. 

“SLCN difficulties left unaddressed will directly impact on the ability of young people to succeed and thrive at school. Young people can disengage and are labelled ‘quiet’ or they act out through poor behaviour – either way they are not being supported to achieve their full potential.”

The tools are available at £29.99 each or £76.47 for the full set from A video guide on using the Tools has also been created and can be viewed at


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