We know that school leaders and teaching staff are passionate about providing every pupil with the support and resources they need to succeed academically and beyond.

A useful source of funding, Pupil Premium funding, is allocated to schools based on the number of pupils eligible for free school meals or those who have been in care for more than six months.

The primary aim of this funding is to reduce the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers by providing additional resources and support. However, the effective utilisation of this funding requires careful planning and targeted interventions.

A key target for use of Pupil Premium funding is to boost reading comprehension, but have you considered how speech, language and communication skills underpin literacy?

In this blog, we will explore how using your Pupil Premium funding on spoken language skills’ initiatives can increase pupils’ reading comprehension. We will also look at how packages such as those provided by Speech & Language Link can help.

 

Understanding how Oral Language Skills support Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension and communication skills are at the foundation of literacy development and academic success. Proficiency in these areas not only impacts academic achievement but also fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, and social interaction skills – essential for lifelong learning and success. When you recognise the significance of these skills, it becomes imperative to invest Pupil Premium funding strategically to bolster reading comprehension and communication abilities among eligible pupils.

Before delving into the strategies for utilising Pupil Premium funding, it’s essential to grasp the intrinsic link between spoken language skills and reading comprehension. Proficient oral language skills encompass vocabulary development, syntax (the arrangement of words in a sentence/phrase), fluency, and comprehension – all of which are essential components of successful reading comprehension.

When pupils possess strong oral language abilities, they are better equipped to decode text, make meaning of complex passages, and engage critically with written material. In fact, the size of an infant’s vocabulary has been found to be a statistically significant predictor of later vocabulary, phonological awareness, reading accuracy and reading comprehension.

Even in secondary, within the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) guidance on how schools can improve literacy in all subject areas, two of the seven recommendations relate specifically to the importance of spoken language. Therefore, investing in oral language skills development is a strategic pathway to enhancing reading comprehension outcomes.

 

How you can use Pupil Premium funding to enhance oral language skills and raise Reading Comprehension?

1. Identifying underlying speech, language and communication needs (SLCN):

EEF guidance highlights:

Speaking and listening are critical to extending pupils’ receptive and expressive vocabulary. While pupils may have the decoding skills required to say a word out loud, they will only be able to understand what it means if it is already in their vocabulary.” This underlines the importance of knowing whether pupils have strong underpinning oral language skills”.

It is recommended that pupils are screened for SLCN at the beginning of each key stage.

 

2. Small Group Intervention Sessions:

Allocating Pupil Premium funding to small group intervention sessions focused on oral language skills development supports the ultimate goal of improving reading comprehension.

  • These sessions can be led by school staff using tried, tested and fully evidenced interventions tailored to address the specific needs of pupils.

  • Targeted activities such as oral comprehension exercises, activities around building vocabulary and programmes that develop grammatical understanding are all beneficial.

 

3. Professional Development for Staff:

  • Investing Pupil Premium funding in professional development opportunities for teaching and support staff will enhance their understanding of effective strategies for promoting oral language skills.

  • Equipping educators with research-based methodologies and instructional techniques enables them to integrate oral language development into daily instruction across various subject areas, as well as to identify and support pupils with specific needs.

  • Regular and ongoing access to articles, professional development workshops and seminars can foster a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement among staff members.

 

4. Interactive Language-supportive Environment:

  • Create an interactive and language-supportive environment within the school setting can take place by utilising Pupil Premium funding to enhance classroom resources and learning materials.

  • Incorporate visual aids, vocabulary-rich displays, and interactive technologies that stimulate verbal communication and language acquisition.
  • Designate dedicated spaces such as reading corners or storytelling areas where pupils can engage in collaborative language activities and discussions.

You will find many useful ideas in Speech & Language Link’s The Ultimate Guide to Speech, Language and Communication Needs, as well as the classroom strategies that are an integral part of the Speech Link and Language Link identification and intervention packages.

 

5. Cross-curricular Integration:

  • Recognise, as a school, the importance of oral language development (in terms of both the understanding and use of words and sentences) will ensure that everyone has good knowledge of how this supports literacy and success across the whole curriculum.

  • Promote cross-curricular integration of oral language skills development across subject areas, leveraging Pupil Premium funding to support interdisciplinary initiatives.

  • Encourage teachers to incorporate speaking and listening activities into lessons across the curriculum, providing pupils with opportunities to apply and reinforce oral language skills in diverse contexts.

  • Collaborative projects, presentations, and debates serve as effective platforms for fostering communication skills while deepening understanding of academic content.

 

6. Parental Involvement Programs:

  • Engage parents and carers in supporting oral language skills development at home through targeted parental involvement programmes funded by Pupil Premium. This can include organising workshops, family literacy events, or communication information sessions to provide strategies and resources that promote language-supportive interactions.

  • Encourage parents to read aloud, engage in meaningful conversations, and explore language-rich activities together, fostering a supportive home learning environment conducive to oral language development.

 

7. Measuring Impact and Monitoring Progress:

  • Gauging the effectiveness of interventions funded by Pupil Premium is essential through establishing clear outcome measures and monitoring mechanisms.

  • Utilise formative assessments, language proficiency benchmarks, and qualitative feedback to track pupils’ progress over time.

  • Regular data analysis and progress reviews enable educators to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement, guiding the refinement of interventions and resource allocation decisions.

 

How you can Speech & Language Link packages help?

Speech & Language Link offer a whole school approach to identifying and supporting oral language needs in schools.

We recognise how these skills are essential to developing strong reading comprehension and learning across the whole curriculum and have developed support that can be funded through Pupil Premium allocations. We even have a Pupil Premium report template on our website!

As speech and language specialists, we contribute the following to schools from early years to secondary level:

  • Screening tools for use at the beginning of each key stage, or when a pupil joins the school.

  • Individualised and small group interventions tailored to meet pupils’ needs.

  • Online training and CPD and in addition to our termly Link magazines – Primary and Secondary – delivered FREE to every school in the UK.

  • Information and resources for staff, parents and interested partners, including a Parent Portal with ‘homework’ activities to develop and support oral language skills.

  • Progress monitoring and evaluation systems that enable individual monitoring of pupils’ progress, as well as reporting that provides before and after scores for classes, schools, multi-academy trusts or local authorities.

  • Research and evidence that provides a national picture on the changing needs of pupils’ SLCN in schools and shares best practice on how to support these pupils.

 

Summary

Enhancing pupils’ reading comprehension is multifaceted and necessitates a comprehensive approach encompassing oral language skills development.

By strategically directing Pupil Premium funding towards initiatives aimed at promoting oral language proficiency, such as Speech & Language Link packages, schools can effectively address the underlying factors hindering reading comprehension success.

Through Pupil Premium funded targeted interventions, cross-curricular integration, and collaborative partnerships with stakeholders, we can, together, empower pupils with the linguistic tools and competencies necessary to thrive academically and beyond.

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