Tuesday 23 July 2024
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Nottingham

City-wide plans to improve children’s speech and language skills post-Covid

The speech and language development of young children across Nottingham will be supported by a new project after the communication levels of under-fives fell below national averages in parts of the city.

Nottingham City Council carried out an extensive consultation with parents, carers, and the early years workforce to find out the challenges facing the area.

Around half (51 per cent) of families knew who to contact if they had a concern about their child’s speech, language and communication (SLC).

But less than half (47 per cent) understood all the health and education assessments that their child will have before they are five years old.

The council says following the Covid-19 pandemic, it anticipates further challenges in relation to children’s speech, language, and communication needs.

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Data called the Local Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP), which was published three years ago, says children and young people in Nottingham are not developing in communication, language and literacy to the best of their potential, with scores consistently below the national average.

The highest concentration of children under five experiencing issues is within the Aspley ward area, with 57 per cent of 0-4-year-olds there predicted to have problems.

The council has already made progress in addressing some of the issues, but wants to build on this work, especially in light of the problems caused by isolation during the Covid pandemic.

It says a city-wide strategy for babies to five-year-olds will be “a golden thread” to ensuring families are fully supported with the early identification of these problems.

Over the last 12 months, the council says it has increased participation in the free early years entitlements places for two, three and four-year-olds, almost back to pre-pandemic levels, which also supports the early identification of these needs in the youngest children.

Kathryn Bouchlaghem, early years manager, and Katherine Crossley, early years project officer at Nottingham City Council have prepared a report.

It will be discussed by councillors at Nottingham City Health and Wellbeing Board on July 27.

They state: “From an early age, children who cannot communicate as well as their friends struggle with attachment and attainment and, by the time they are five years old, they are less engaged at school and one-and-a-half times more likely to have mental health problems in later life.

“Children with undiagnosed SLC needs are more likely to be excluded from school and struggle to form relationships with their peers.

“Supporting children to achieve good SLC before they turn 5 is fundamental to support their mental health.

“However, addressing poor SLC across all age brackets should be prioritised and will have significant mental health advantages.”

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