Young people with language and communication difficulties who live in two London boroughs have improved both their communication skills and their academic attainments as a result of City's Enhancing Language and Communication in Secondary Schools (ELCISS) programme.

Published (Updated )

The research, led by Dr Victoria Joffe, Reader in Developmental Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties in the School of Health Sciences, aimed to provide information on effective ways of supporting secondary school students with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). This area has been identified as a significant gap in service provision by the Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP in his 2008 review of services to people with SLCN.

The research investigated the effectiveness of intervention programmes in enhancing the language and communication skills of secondary school students with SLCN. Two different intervention programmes - vocabulary and narrative - were delivered to a group of 357 12 year-olds across 21 secondary schools in the London boroughs of Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham.

The interventions were implemented by teaching assistants trained by the research team. Students who received the narrative intervention had better understanding of the nature of stories and storytelling and also told better and more exciting stories than their peers in the control group. This same improvement was not seen in the vocabulary group but that group demonstrated significant advancement in word knowledge and idiomatic understanding compared to the control group. There was also marked improvement in the academic performance, general school behaviour and wellbeing of the young people.

The project's findings appeared in the Afasic Newsletter (Joffe, V.L., 2011. Secondary School is not too Late to Support and Enhance Language and Communication. Afasic Newsletter, Winter Edition. Afasic). The two ELCISS intervention programmes have also been published (Joffe, V.L., 2011. Narrative Programme: Using Narratives to Enhance Language and Learning Across the Secondary School Curriculum. Speechmark Publishers and Joffe, V.L., 2011. Vocabulary Enrichment Programme. Speechmark Publishers).

The City team delivered in-service training to each of the schools to disseminate the research findings and increase awareness of SLCN. Teaching staff were given advice on ways of modifying their own language, the classroom and their lessons in order to enhance the learning of all students, whatever their needs.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation with top-ups from the Communication Trust and the relevant local education authorities, ELCISS intervention programmes have now been picked up by various London boroughs and local authorities in other parts of the country.

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