Forth Valley Primary School Celebrates Speech Success

Children at a Forth Valley primary school have substantially increased their language skills, thanks to working closely with speech and language therapists from NHS Forth Valley. Figures show that on average children made 28 months progress in their spoken language in a 12 month period, with one child making exceptional progress of 43 months.

Speech and Language Therapy Team Leader, Communication Support in Education Team, Glenn Carter said the initiative at Bankier Primary, which is funded by Falkirk Council and the Scottish Government, involves class teachers, support for learning assistants and parents, who have been encouraged to use approaches and interventions that improve children’s talking, such as increasing opportunities for talking with children, reading and being responsive to topics their children are interested in.

Mr Carter explained: “Most people associate speech and language therapy with conditions such as stammering, lisps and speech sound difficulties. But this programme is designed to give all children greater skills with words and communication which are linked with improved learning, mental health, behaviour, employment opportunities and future life chances.”

It is estimated that almost one in four of the 34,000 young people aged 18 and under in Falkirk have speech, language and communication needs.

The new programme, Closing the Spoken Language and Attainment Gap, engages nursery children and primary children from P1 to P3. It is based on a number of approaches such as colourful semantics where children used coloured cards, symbols and  gestures to make up fun spoken and written sentences such as ‘the giraffe is washing the cereal’ and ‘the gingerbread man is fixing the skateboard’. This is not only good fun but helps keeps children interested and entertained.  In addition, a speech and language therapist provides an initial short talk to parents, highlighting the importance of spoken language and providing examples of things they can do to help support their children’s language and learning development.

Six months later parents commented on how their children were faring with feedback including ‘my child has been much better describing things and enjoys lots more pretend play’ and ‘he is better at listening to what I am saying and is a confident speaker’

 Susan Dyer, Head Teacher at Bankier Primary School, said: “This programme has worked by targeting individual pupils as well as benefiting the whole class.

“There is strong evidence that it has impacted very positively on attainment and has vastly improved our pupils’ language skills. We hope it will help them participate more in class and make friends throughout their school years.”

Bankier Primary is now believed to be one of the first schools in Scotland to come up with a bespoke plan for improving spoken language skills for their school. The attainment results are among the highest at P1 in Falkirk district and this partnership initiative with speech and language therapy is being extended to some schools in both Stirling and Clackmannanshire.