Teesside schools seek to improve speech and communication skills of pre-school children

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A grant of more than £50,000 from SHINE will help children across Teesside ‘get the best possible start at school’.

Seven primary schools, in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees, will take part in a project that aims to improve the speech, language and communication skills of three and four-year-olds.

Evidence shows that if children with delayed speech, language and communication are identified early and given the right support, they make good progress. For pre-school children who have delayed language, this can mean that they catch up with other children.

In five out of the seven schools – which are all part of the Ad Astra Academy Trust – two thirds of pupils enter Reception with below expected levels for speaking.

And Middlesbrough as a whole has the lowest percentage in England of early years children achieving the expected levels in communication and language.

It is feared that Covid will have worsened the issue, with young children having had less opportunity to mix and communicate with others.

Philippa Kermotschuk, Deputy Lead for School Improvement with Ad Astra Academy Trust, said: “We are seeing an increasing number of children entering our schools with below average speech and language skills.

“We want to ensure that all of our children get off to the best possible start at school and this funding will help us to focus on the children who need additional support to bring their speech and language skills to the required level.”

We know that the early years of a child’s educational journey are critically important in giving them the best possible chances in life, and that speech and communication is one of the most vital skills our children can develop.

Dr Helen Rafferty Interim CEO, SHINE

The SHINE grant of £52,080 will be spent over a two-year period. It will involve various initiatives including the appointment of speech and language champions at each school and programmes for parents to help them support and encourage their children.

Dr Helen Rafferty, Interim CEO of SHINE, said: “SHINE is delighted to be working with the Ad Astra Academy Trust on this important and inspiring project.

“We know that the early years of a child’s educational journey are critically important in giving them the best possible chances in life, and that speech and communication is one of the most vital skills our children can develop.

“We are looking forward to seeing many more children in the region find their voice and thrive throughout their school years.”

Andy Brown OBE, Chief Executive Officer for Ad Astra Academy Trust, commented: “We are delighted to receive financial support from SHINE and there’s no doubt it will help to raise standards and aspirations of our young children.”

It’s felt that the increased reliance on technology in recent years and a rise in poverty across our communities are the main contributory factors to young children lacking basic speech and language skills.

Leanne Todd, Headteacher of Rosebrook Primary School, added: “It is so important that children get off to a good start with their speech and acquisition of language as it enables them to succeed in all areas of the curriculum as well as to socialise and interact with others.

“The initiative will help our schools to identify issues at an early stage in a child’s development, meaning we can intervene sooner to enable all children to keep up or catch up.”

The seven primary schools within Ad Astra Academy Trust are Barnard Grove, Brougham, West Park and West View in Hartlepool, Ayresome in Middlesbrough and Crooksbarn and Rosebrook in Stockton-on-Tees