The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties has called for a programme of improved awareness for staff, better diagnosis and response rates, and more targeted support for the most vulnerable pupils.
The Better Communication Research programme, a three-year research programme funded by the Department for Education, reported in December that pupils entitled to free school meals and living in more deprived neighbourhoods were more than twice as likely to be identified as having speech, language and communication needs.
The MPs’ report said that communication difficulties have a knock-on effect on young people’s readiness for school, as well as on literacy and school performance and put children at risk of a wide range of long-term disadvantages in terms of literacy, mental health and employment.
Lord Ramsbotham, chair of the group, said: “Effective collaboration between services is crucial. We need a national framework for local education, health and social care services that covers all children with communication difficulties and reflects the recommendations in this report.”
The group called for training for relevant practitioners, better systems for monitoring and responding to the development of children’s communication and targeted additional support to improve the communication environments of children living in socially deprived areas.
Kamini Gadhok, chief executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, said: “This report demonstrates the importance of good communication skills to children’s life chances and comes at a critical time in the passage of the Children and Families Bill through Parliament.”
Anne Fox, director of the Communication Trust, said: “We welcome the investigation into the large number of children who have poor language in many communities; we are pleased to see support given to the contribution made by the voluntary sector to support better outcomes for these children.”