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Delayed Speech: Disadvantaged Children

Volume 697: debated on Monday 21 June 2021

What steps he is taking to tackle the increase in delayed speech among reception age children from disadvantaged backgrounds as a result of the covid-19 outbreak. (901513)

The Government’s education recovery plan includes £17 million for the Nuffield early language intervention. That excellent evidence-based programme targets reception-age children who need extra support for their language development. It is proven to help children make around three months of additional progress. So far, 40% of primary schools in England have signed up, helping 60,000 children in this academic year.

Before the pandemic, 50% of children from disadvantaged backgrounds suffered a speech delay at school entry, and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has found that since the pandemic children of all ages from disadvantaged backgrounds have particularly suffered from the withdrawal of speech and language support. Will the Minister ensure that extra resources are provided for children of all ages from disadvantaged areas, with both digital and in-person support, so that their life chances are empowered not impaired, and that those in greatest need get greater support? Will she meet me and the royal college to discuss that?

In England, schools can use their recovery funding to purchase additional therapies such as speech and language therapies, and I have seen examples of where that has already happened. The funding we have given for recovery has included Barnett consequentials and money going to Wales, and I encourage the Welsh Government to look at the Nuffield early language initiative. Nearly a quarter of a million children have already been screened for it, and it is having real benefits in England. I encourage taking a look at it across the border, as it is a brilliant way to help children.