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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Rising number of primary pupils unable to speak in sentences

July 8th, 2008 by admin


Polly Curtis, education editor
Tuesday July 8, 2008
The Guardian

The number of children who arrive at primary school unable to speak in full sentences is rising, according to a government review which today reveals that 7% of children now have a serious communication problem.

A rise in “home-related” speech problems, shown by children who are not encouraged by their parents to speak from an early age, is fuelling the increase, according to the Tory MP John Bercow, who has carried out a review for the government.

In some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country, up to 50% of children had speech problems, he said.

Bercow’s review calls on schools to monitor speech development from the start. It will request more information for parents on what to do if their toddlers do not start talking.

Children’s problems range from stuttering and a general “impoverishment” of language if not encouraged to speak to autism and speech difficulties among those with hearing loss. “The 7% are those who have big difficulties with speech or language – they are likely to need specialist or targeted intervention,” Bercow told the Guardian. “For others, the home is a factor. If a child is exposed to a relentless diet of TV and computer games and deprived of interaction at home, that is very damaging.”

He said schools had neglected the issue. “Instead of being an optional add-on, communication skills should be at the heart of the primary curriculum … speech and listening have been elbowed out of schools for literacy and numeracy for too long.”

The report describes speech difficulties as the “unrecognised” problem in the education system, much as dyslexia was 20 years ago. It calls for children to be monitored and for better training for teachers, nursery workers and childcare workers.

Ministers are expected to respond to the report tomorrow with a promise of funding for a school programme that will encourage better communication skills and help teachers identify problems.

Bercow, who has a son, aged four, with speech problems associated with autism, said he was told regularly that his child’s issues would “sort themselves out” in time. “It doesn’t get sorted out – people have fewer options through life if they cannot speak,” he said.

Virginia Beardshaw, chief executive of I CAN, a speech charity, said: “Communication is the fundamental life skill for the 21st century.”