Best Practice

SEN: Getting SLCN support right in your school

Effective support for children with speech, language and communication needs is essential, but how does your school measure up? Ten years on from the Bercow Review, Mary Hartshorne looks at the situation today and gives us a checklist for best practice

How effective is your school in supporting the language and communication skills of students?

Earlier this year, the Oxford University Press published Why Closing the Word Gap Matters (April 2018), reporting on a survey of more than 1,000 teachers asking about levels of students’ vocabulary in their schools.

A total of 840 of the respondents were from secondary schools and you may not be surprised by the results: 40 per cent felt students lacked the vocabulary to access learning, and more than 60 per cent of secondary teachers felt the gap between students with poor word knowledge and their peers was increasing.

Knowing the powerful link between pupils’ vocabulary and their learning and wider performance, these findings really matter. Vocabulary at five is the most important factor in predicting literacy outcomes at age 11 (Save the Children, 2016) – but it is not just vocabulary in the earlier years which matters. A recent study showed that vocabulary scores at age 13 strongly predict both maths and English literature GCSE results.

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