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Sure Start Programme: Communication Skills

Volume 476: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what recent assessment he has made of the capacity of Sure Start centre staff to help children develop language skills. (206090)

From September 2008, all settings offering early years provision will be required to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage. This supports all settings to plan play, activities and experiences that can help all children to make progress in their development and learning. It stresses the importance of practitioners being alert to the early signs of needs that could lead to later difficulties and provides a framework to enable early years practitioners to respond quickly and appropriately, involving other agencies as necessary.

Sure Start children’s centres play a key role in the positive promotion of children’s vocabulary, speech and language development and in identifying speech and language difficulties. We expect staff in children’s centres to have a good understanding of how to promote children’s language acquisition and identify speech and language difficulties as part of a centre-wide strategy and approach, supported by access to more specialist speech and language services which are jointly commissioned by PCTs and local authorities.

We are working with I CAN, the children’s communication charity, to pilot their Early Talk training programme in 200 children’s centres. This will train children’s centre practitioners, alongside speech and language therapists, to develop their knowledge and understanding of language development, and the ways in which they can help support parents in developing communication skills at home.