the speech & language trainers

Elklan Blog

How much does poor communication cost the nation?

Monday, October 21, 2019

Man and woman with their heads in their own hands

Communication skills form the cornerstone of a successful education, helping children to understand what is being taught and then apply this practically in their work. Children who do not have effective communication skills tend to find themselves falling behind early on in their school lives.

Unless the problem is rectified quickly, they struggle to catch up, meaning that over time this achievement gap widens.

Children who do not have good communication and language skills face several problems, from low self-esteem and struggling in social situations to finding it hard to manage within an education setting.

Studies show that up to 80% of children in some areas of the UK do not have adequate communication skills when they start school, and this problem follows them up through the education system.

In early years this can be attributed to developmental issues, and in primary school these children are considered to have learning issues. Once a child gets to secondary school, communication problems can lead to bad behaviour and disciplinary action, which affects their self esteem even further.

What is SLCN?

SLCN stands for Speech, Language and Communication Needs and is characterised by difficulties with understanding spoken language, as well as using language in a social context.

There is a wide spectrum of SLCN, which can incorporate children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, those with hearing problems and other specific disabilities. For children struggling with these issues, it is more likely that they will have persistent SLCN, and it is estimated that this form of SLCN affects up to 10% of all children.

What is Transitory SLCN?

Transitory SLCN refers to children who have speech and language skills that are slow to develop but with the correct support can catch up. They may struggle to speak clearly, talk in sentences or understand what is being said to them.

It is estimated that more than half of children in some parts of the UK have transitory SLCN when they start school.

Long term consequences of SLCN

Research has shown a strong correlation between children with SLCN and a range of problems in adult life, including emotional and behavioural difficulties, limited employment prospects, mental health issues and crime.

Struggling to communicate effectively leads to frustration as without good speech and language skills children and young adults find it hard to explain how they are feeling. This can lead to ‘acting out’, unwanted behaviour or withdrawing and becoming isolated. This is why it is so important to deal with the issue early on.

What can be affected by poor communication skills?


The results of transitory SLCN in education are pronounced. Almost all children with SLCN will have some difficulty with reading and writing, which in turn affects their abilities in other areas of their education.

It is estimated that between 50% and 90% of children with persistent SLCN will have trouble with reading, whilst issues with vocabulary and concept formulation naturally affect a child’s ability to grasp mathematical theories. If they do not get support they need within the school system the sad fact is that that can have lower exam pass rates and are less likely to go on into higher education than their peers.

Social relationships

Limited communication skills can also affect a child’s social life. Whilst children who have adequate or good communication skills can learn and communicate together with ease, those with SLCN often find themselves isolated from a young age. They are also more likely to be bullied.

In older children, a combination of isolation and low self esteem can cause them to act in ways outside of socially accepted behaviours, in order to get respect or find their niche with their peers.

As adults, research shows that people with poor basic skills are statistically less likely to have a long term partner, and those that do tend to have more children at a younger age.

Criminal activity

In a recent Education and Skills Committee Report, a strong connection was noted between poor language and communication skills and youth crime. Up to 25% of young offenders were found to have special educational needs, of which only 60% had been diagnosed with these issues.

By the same token, 50% of the general UK prison population were found to have literacy issues, compared with just 17% of the general population. There is also good evidence to suggest that prisoners who take part in education and training whilst in custody are less likely to reoffend.

In one study, recidivism rates amongst ex-prisoners who took an education course whilst in prison ran at 28%, whilst the national average for offenders was 44%.

How can schools help?

Although it is helpful for children to receive support with their SLCN at the earliest possible opportunity, there is always a need for skilled teachers and teaching assistants to support them at any stage in their education. In doing so the gloomy picture painted earlier in this blog can be reversed.

At the earliest stages, in nurseries and primary schools, specialist intervention has been proven to be the most successful and cost-effective approach, helping these children to catch up to their peers and often avoiding the need for specialist support in later years.

However, many early years teachers and staff feel that they do not have the required knowledge to help these children, without any training in this area. Over a third of teachers say that they have had no training to work with children with special educational needs, and more than 60% of primary school teachers expressed concerns with their abilities to handle children with SLCN, both in their academic needs and in the behavioural issues that often co-present. This is where Elklan training comes in.

More information

Elklan training courses are for all education staff whichever age group or type of SLCN they are working within. Schools and other settings can train several members of staff on one of our nationally accredited courses and then be supported to deliver this information to other staff in the setting. In so doing they can become a communication-friendly setting. This model also builds in sustainability for the setting as they have the capacity to continue to deliver effective nationally used courses into the future.

Elklan training is already used throughout the education system, at every age, to help children and adults improve their communication skills and support each other.

Better yet, there is a Speech and Language Support for Vulnerable Young People course which has been recently developed to work specifically with teenagers and young people who are already in the youth justice system.

To see how Elklan can help you please give us a call on 01208 841450 or email