In March 2018, I CAN, the children’s communication charity, and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) launched Bercow: Ten Years On, an independent review of provision for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) in England.

I am really hoping that this comes as no surprise to anyone reading this!

The report found a fractured system failing thousands of children and young people by not identifying their needs early enough or providing adequate levels of support. I am thinking that this also will not come as a surprise. Over 2,500 people submitted evidence to the review; we heard from many people that their experience of services is poor; that for families the journey to try to get support for their child is a “long, harrowing and tortuous” one; that systems do not prioritise speech, language and communication, or support for those who are struggling. You can read a summary of the report findings, written specifically for you whether you are a teacher, early years practitioner or speech and language therapist – or indeed a young person

Inadequate and inaccessible support for children and young people is not a new problem, the original review led by John Bercow ten years ago found a very similar situation. However, perhaps what are different this time are the solutions.

At the Naplic conference at the end of April, we were challenged not to spend too much time on ‘admiring the problem’. We hope we have not done so; now is the time for action.

Thankfully, the picture is not a completely bleak one. As well as challenges and issues, the review also found many examples of really innovative, effective practice. The solutions are based on these – and here I’ll draw out three things to note:

Firstly, there is a set of strong, strategic recommendations – mostly aimed at Government, some at regulators such as Ofsted and CQC. These call for systems change – we ask that in national or local planning, the prevalence and impact of children and young people’s SLCN is taken into account.

Secondly, from the evidence we heard, we pull out key features of effective practice – for services, schools, commissioning etc. These are recurring themes that stood out as really making a difference – things like strong leadership, support at three levels, a rolling programme of workforce development. These can all be found if you scroll down on

And thirdly, it is not just leaders and decision-makers that we are asking to act. We want a groundswell of activity from everyone involved with children and young people’s SLCN, helping to ensure the recommendations have impact. Already, over 5,000 people have signed a petition to get a government response to the report. But there is more you can do. We’ve drafted a series of practical calls to action – bold first steps to make something happen locally. And you don’t have to take action alone! We have developed all sorts of practical material to help you – visit and click on the picture relevant to you: teacher, speech and language therapist, parent, etc. This will point you in the right direction to find top tips, templates for emails or letters, presentations, guidance and information sheets. Here’s just one example of how this can work:

How people can take action locally, to support the strategic recommendations

Strategic recommendations

Ofsted should ensure that training for inspectors should ensure a focus on SLCN, including specific advice on how schools assess and monitor progress in spoken language.

Calls to action

Use our information sheet and PowerPoint presentation for primary or secondary schools to share information about progress in spoken language, and the impact of SLCN support with Ofsted inspectors.

And your next step? Tell us what you’ve been up to! We’d love to hear from you on social media, use the hashtag #Bercow10 to keep up with the conversation.

Share this article

Please login to view this content