Seema Malhotra MP has written to Damian Hinds MP, the Secretary of State of Education, to protect speech and language provision. Read the letter in full.
Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing to express concern about the Department for Education’s decision to discontinue the specialist contract for Speech Language and Communication Needs. It is our strong belief that its removal will have a detrimental impact on one of the most vulnerable groups within the UK.
Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) is one of the most common childhood disabilities, affecting an estimated 10% of all children. Many of these needs will be long term and persistent, requiring ongoing support. 7% of all children are affected by developmental language disorder (DLD), which means that SLCN is their primary need and at least 3% of children have SLCN linked with other needs, including hearing impairments, autistic spectrum disorders, and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia.
Speech, language and communication skills are essential for social mobility, something which both you and Justine Greening identify as a policy priority. Children eligible for free school meals are 2.3 times more likely to have language difficulties than their peers, and only 51% of these pupils achieve a good level of development at the end of the EYFS, compared to 69% for other pupils.
We were therefore shocked to discover that funding for SLCN at the Communication Trust would be cut this year, despite Government support for over a decade. Teachers and early years practitioners are so horrified about this that 28,000 signed a petition within four days. Meanwhile, demand for the Trust’s services has increased dramatically; the number of users subscribed to the Trust’s services grew by over 33% last year, reaching over 50,000 users. The organisations web reach has also expanded, with 112,000 unique users accessing the website for resources and guidance in 2017, a 12% increase from the previous year.
Time is of the essence, and we ask that you urgently review this decision. We urge you to meet with the APPG for Speech and Language Therapy (chaired by Geraint Davies MP and Lord Ramsbotham) and the Communication Trust to discuss these matters further.
Seema Malhotra MP
Member of Parliament for Feltham and Heston