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Why might childrens speech development be worse in the north of England?

Monday 9th April 2018
Too many children in the north of England are starting school unable to communicate effectively, a new report has highlighted. Image: Kikovic via iStock
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A lack of provision for speech and language therapists in the north of England has been cited  in a new report as one of the factors contributing to the region's children falling behind their southern peers developmentally and academically.

Entitled 'Growing Up North, Look North: A Generation of Children Await the Powerhouse Promise', the report from the Children's Commissioner shows that the support given to young people in the north is often much less than that available in the south.

This is partly due to levels of childhood poverty typically being much higher in the north, but also due to local councils being forced to make cuts, and services that contribute significantly to children's wellbeing are often first to be affected, from free school meals to specialist speech therapy support.

The report found that too many children in the north are starting school behind where they should be developmentally, lacking the confidence to progress in their abilities, which may be why so many more young people in the north drop out of education before the age of 18 compared to their counterparts in the south.

What's more, it was found that over half of secondary schools in the most deprived communities in the north are rated as less than good by Ofsted, potentially further impacting children's chances.

Responding to the report's findings, Newcastle headteacher Dame Nicola Nelson, explained: "A trend has been emerging in Newcastle and indeed further afield of children starting school with delayed speech development.

"It is becoming too familiar to hear children simply scream or point at objects to get an adult's attention. Creating a language-rich environment was unfortunately not enough to enable the children to form sounds and make themselves understood."

As a result, it is clear that extra provision for speech and language therapists, as well as other experts who can help children in their early years' development is desperately needed in more disadvantaged communities.

Many local authorities in the north of England are being forced to make cuts in these areas, but this is putting children's future education at risk - something that could adversely affect both their academic performance and social development for years to come.

Written by Martin Lambert

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