I have never felt so emotional about Elklan as I did last Wednesday at the Elklan meeting of tutors and co-tutors in Salford. Those who attended were treated to amazing presentations from two schools who talked to us about the impact of the Communication Friendly Schools (CFS) programme on the children's academic progress and behaviour and staff confidence and skills. Riverside Primary School, Salford and Ladywood Special School, Bolton, awed us all by their commitment and enthusiasm in supporting the development of communication throughout their schools.
Both schools have a history of close collaboration with the Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT) Departments locally. They felt driven to partake in the project because of a strong desire to ensure that children's speech and language development was facilitated and owned by the whole staff team and children were given opportunities and the means to communicate across all contexts and areas of the curriculum.
Staff in both schools blossomed as they appreciated that the relatively simple strategies taught were easy to implement and proved immediately effective with the children. They were delighted to learn that in essence the programme was about re-thinking their delivery of the curriculum rather than being given more work to do when they are already over-burdened.
The outcomes from both schools are outstanding. Riverside Primary School is committed SaLT having bought in additional sessions from their local service. Whilst this made an impact on the children's scores at the end of the first year of their collaboration the school wanted to achieve more. It was explained to them by the SaLT that ALL staff in the school needed to understand and be committed to implementing the strategies; the school agreed and were ready to embark on the yearlong CFS programme. Both the therapy service and the school have been delighted with the results. The school is now working together as a team to develop the children's communication and see it as an important job for every member of the school staff both teaching and non-teaching, not just that of the SEN teachers and SaLT's.
Their qualitative reports have been supported by data. When children enter the school they are all are assessed using Elklan's Test of Abstract Language Comprehension (TALC). The school is in a deprived ward in inner city Salford with a high percentage of children with additional needs. At the end of Reception 95% of pupils were understanding language at an appropriate level for their age, this had risen from 18% on school entry.
Speaking and listening scores showed that despite children coming in at a very low point, well below the expected level for their age, they had made very significant progress to the extent that by the end of year 2 their average point score was coming into line with the rest of the country.
Ladywood Special School tells a similar story. Creative staff adapted the programme so that it fitted their school population. Confidence soared as the impact of the strategies on the pupils became obvious as all staff, both teaching and non-teaching adapted their language levels to meet the receptive abilities of the children.
Pupils were also enabled to 'Speak Out' in a new way and actively encouraged and supported to voice their views and opinions. Even in this excellent Teaching School it was acknowledged that this was overlooked before and that the impact on the children in more consistent and extensive use of visual supports has been dramatic in enabling them to communicate their needs. Anecdotally one teacher spoke of a child with challenging behaviour which was triggered by staff not understanding him. With renewed use of consistent visuals he was able to indicate in the playground that he was cold, he was allowed indoors, he settled immediately and a major incident was averted.
Another child was given the very simple communication chart used throughout the school at home, for the first time ever he was able to state a preference as to what he wanted to do for the weekend!
Data supports these many positive reports. Analysis of the P scores showed an increase in 5 points in speaking, listening and writing (previously 3,4 and 3 respectively) and 4 points in reading (previously 3),
There are many more stories like this to tell, we will keep the blog updated as we get the details. To learn about how your school can become Communication Friendly visit our website http://www.elklan.co.uk/information/commissioners-schools/5-11yrs/communication-friendly-schools or email firstname.lastname@example.org