The Impact of SLCN: The Challenge Facing Schools

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Good language skills are linked to achievement and life chances. A child starting school with poor language skills faces an uphill struggle to catch up. Unsupported language delays affect attainment, learning, literacy, social relationships, behaviour, mental health and ultimately employment and social mobility.

Even minor language delays at age 5 can, if unsupported, lead to more long term difficulties as the child progresses through school. Studies have shown that vocabulary at age 5 is a reliable predictor of later academic achievement.

Around 25% of children starting school across the UK have poor speech or language skills. This figure rises sharply for children growing up in poverty. For some of these children their problems will be obvious and will be linked to other developmental difficulties. However, many children’s language difficulties are less easy to observe and can remain hidden for some time.

Without addressing this, schools cannot raise attainment or narrow the performance gap between children growing up in poverty and those from more affluent homes. Yet how can schools do this when many of these children will not meet the referral criteria for local NHS Speech and Language Therapy services?

Our services/packages help schools to ensure early identification and intervention to raise attainment and narrow the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children. This is designed to complement the support from local Speech and Language Therapists.

“Closing the gap? Trends in educational attainment and disadvantage.” Education Policy Institute, July 2017

Did you know…?

  • The gap between the best and worst 10 year old readers is 7 years.
  • Children living in poverty hear 8 million fewer words a year.
  • Good language skills are the best way to improve social mobility.
  • 1 in 6 children in school do not have English has their first language.
  • Half the children referred to mental health services have significant language difficulties.
  • 81% of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties have underlying language problems.
  • ‘22% of SEN support pupils in England have SLCN as their primary need.’

Sources: Early Language Delays in the UK. Law, J. et al (2013), Read On Get On campaign (2014) Save the Children, Early Intervention Foundation report (2015), I CAN report (2016), I CAN Impact Report 2016/17, DFE School Census Data 2017.

‘As a school we have been using the Language Link interventions programme over the past 5 years and it had proved invaluable with regard to narrowing the attainment gap and helping children to achieved.’ Early Years Teacher, Bridgehall Primary School, Stockport.

“22% of SEN support pupils in England have SLCN as their primary need.”
DFE School Census Data 2017

Find out more about how Language Link can help your school or book a free trial:

Our Company

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Speech Link Multimedia Ltd. provides unique award-winning packages, enabling schools to identify and support children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and those new to English (EAL).

We are passionate about supporting schools to help ALL children build communication skills for life and are establishing in over 3,500 primary and secondary schools.

Case Study

The Scarborough Pledge has supported its coastal schools to address concerns about pupils’ poor levels of Speech and Language development. This has been made possible through Language Link – and interactive child-friendly system that screens children from Reception class through to Year 6. Initially the project was for 5 schools but due to the success of the pilot, a further 10 schools joined the project in 2017.

The programme as not only been highly effective in identifying children whose teachers did not think they had communication or comprehension gaps, but the children have also made accelerated progress. It’s a joy to work with and to see the children make progress because they have access to the interventions that meet their personalised needs.

Vicki Logan, Headteacher, Overdale CP School, Scarborough.

The difference we are making

73% – the percentage of Reception/P1 children with mild/moderate delays whose scores improved to the age-typical range following Language Link interventions.

94% – the percentage of school staff/teachers who had seen improvements in understanding, communication, listening and participation.

77% – the percentage of class teachers who believe that Language Link has a direct impact on pupil attainment.

72% – the percentage of support staff who changed the way they work with pupils after using Language Link.

9,000+ – the number of intervention groups completed annually.

136,821 – the number of Language Link assessments completed by schools (Sep-Feb 2017).

Speech Link and Language Link

Our serviced packages

Speech Link and Language Link provide online SLCN assessment, tailored interventions, resources, data analysis and in-product training enabling you to make the best use of external agency support, saving you time and money.

Our packages are written by speech and language therapists. Their specialist knowledge enhances the SENCO’s graduated approach to AEN. Each package provides clear advice to support teachers in their decision whether a child needs to be seen by a speech and language therapist or support with a programme in class. All the planning, resources and training to deliver programmes form and integral part of each package.

‘This is the best ICT assessment programme I have ever invested in.’ D Garner, SENCO.

‘This is an amazing programme of work that eliminates all the making of resources, assessing children then having to collate all the results so you can produce cast iron evidence of the children’s progress.’ Elaine Pace, Furze Infant School, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham.

All that and more…

Help Desk

Advice on choosing the right support for your school and A* in-package support from SLTs, specialist teachers and Tas. In this technological age, it is reassuring that you can always talk to a real person with expertise.


A range of training options for ALL teaching and support staff. Online, face to face and bespoke solutions allow the SENCO to choose the strategic provision that best meets the team’s CPD needs.

Additional Resources

Printed and downloadable resources are available from our online shop. Designed by speech and language therapists, these beautifully illustrated games make therapy fun and engaging.

Our SLCN magazine is packed full of advice, tips and resources. Delivered FREE to all UK primary schools.

Our Packages: Language Link

Infant Language Link and Junior Language Link provide schools with online tools to identify difficulties understanding language and provide timely targeted interventions.

With 3 standardised child friendly assessments, over 1,000 colourful resources, 22 planned termly language groups, 34 individual supplementary teaching plans and 78 handouts for parents, the Language Link packages are the most comprehensive set of tools available for SLCN. Each package includes an online training course, a friendly Help Desk with speech and language therapist support to help you make the most of these powerful tools. All this for a modest annual subscription, less than one pupil premium or equivalent!


Children are assessed using our online, adult-led standardised assessments. Fun, quick and easily accessible, they assess children’s understanding of language across key areas appropriate for their age. Instant results will identify children who need specialist support and recommend appropriate class and small group interventions so you can target help at the right level where it is most needed.

A set of comprehensive progress measures establishes how the child is coping in the classroom. These help teachers set targets for improvement across key skills including communication, participation, listening, active involvement and social confidence.


The Language Link packages provide planned and resourced interventions for a graduated approach:

  • Whole class – high quality teaching strategies and classroom resources allow the teacher to support speech and language difficulties universally
  • Group interventions – small planned and fully resourced language groups allow the support staff to provide targeted interventions
  • Individual interventions – for pupils who need a little bit extra following a group, our supplementary teaching plans allow teachers and support staff to offer intensive focussed support in the classroom.

Junior Language Link ERA Award Winner 2018 – Primary Resource (Including ICT)

The judges said, ‘Highly impressed – the platform not only offers opportunities to track and trace student progress, but also provides well-designed suggestions and strategies for teacher intervention.’

An Integrated Approach

Headteacher: Measured outcomes and detailed live reporting enable senior leaders to develop and monitor SLCN policy and budget deployment.

SENCO: Instant inspection ready reports and provision maps for children, classes and the whole school help you to plan and evaluate support.

Teacher: Standardised assessment results, whole class teaching strategies and classroom resources enrich high quality teaching and progress reviews.

Support Staff: Planned groups and individual programmes with over 1,000 colourful resources help you deliver interventions. Online training develops your expertise.

Parents: Information handouts, homework activities and parent views surveys turn parents into partners.

Measuring progress

Language Link allows you to track impact with powerful progress measures, parent and pupil views, and group and supplementary teaching outcomes. Our flexible dynamic reporting tool provides the information you need at the touch of a button. Reports and provision maps show in-school improvement for each child, class, year group and even the whole school!

Universal screening

Difficulty understanding language can be hard to spot in the classroom through observation alone. To ensure no child is missed we recommend that every child is screened at the beginning of their school career and again at junior level. Early intervention is key to ensuring any delays are supported. A Language Link subscription allows you to carry out unlimited assessments across an academic year representing outstanding value for money.

Our Packages: Secondary Language Link

This assessment, intervention and training package enables secondary schools to identify and support the language and communication needs of pupils aged 11-14 years. It is the only tool of its kind and is listed among the Teach Secondary magazine top 50 resources for secondary schools (2017).


The interactive online standardised assessment can be used universally in year 7 and reflects the typical daily demands for young people to understand language both in the classroom and in conversation with peers. The assessment can be taken by groups of students at one time and is fully audio supported placing minimal demand on literacy skills.

The assessment utilises a number of formats including video, an interactive virtual classroom and multiple choice questions making this an engaging experience for all pupils. Following assessment individual profiles and class reports identify areas of strength and need. This enables senior leaders to set targets and develop action plans to address barriers to learning across the school.

The assessment includes:

Core Language:

  • Following classroom instructions
  • Concept vocabulary
  • Processing information
  • Complex sentences

Social Understanding:

  • Multiple meanings
  • Verbal inferences
  • Understanding sarcasm
  • Idiomatic language

‘They loved it! A group of year 7 students said the assessment was fantastic. If asked to sit it again they would. A brilliant resource.’ Halifax High School.

‘Extremely effective in raising awareness of SLCN in secondary school…’ J. Edgar, SLT, East Kent.

Universal Support

Inclusive Teaching Plans

Inclusive teaching plans are differentiation strategies enabling class teachers to support access to learning for pupils with SLCN and EAL. Subject teachers use the recommended strategies during whole class teaching and then evaluate the impact on the pupil’s level of engagement.

Teacher Toolkit

Our teacher toolkit is an online teacher training resource which examines key aspects of teaching that will support the learning and achievement of students with SLCN and those new to English. Suitable for all subject teachers, it promotes inclusion across the curriculum and can be added to staff CPD programmes.

Targeted Support

Talk Fitness Intervention

Talk Fitness is a unique, innovative group intervention aimed at improving functional and cross-curricular speaking and listening skills. Cleverly combining online learning with classroom teaching, each lesson is presented by online Talk Fitness coaches and teachers in the session. The video-based format provides a rich context for teaching, illustrating real life situations that are authentic and meaningful to young people’s lives.

The programme consists of 6 carefully developed units targeting the most important functional communication skills for the classroom and beyond, teacher guidance notes to explain each session and comprehensive progress measures to chart progress.

Talk Fitness Units

  • Effective listening
  • Formal vs informal talk
  • Understanding and following instructions
  • Giving explanations
  • Taking part in discussions
  • Debating – arguing a point of view

Our Packages: Speech Link

This innovative, easy to use package takes the stress out of identifying and working with children who have developmental speech difficulties. Some of these children are at greater risk of developing literacy difficulties making early identification essential (Nathan et al, 2004). Traditionally seen as ‘specialist’ intervention, Speech Link demystifies speech helping support staff work effectively with a child’s common speech errors.


The quick, engaging screen is used to identify the speech sounds that need support and will also alert staff to children who may need more specialist help from Speech and Language Therapists.


Following assessment, an age appropriate speech programme will be recommended. Each programme comes with clear instructions for support staff and extensive resources, including support materials for parents to use for home practice. The impact is measured through intelligibility ratings.

Online Training

Speech Link provides online training for staff new to working with speech. Our two modules cover how speech sounds are produced and show examples of Speech and Language Therapists working through speech programmes.

‘Precise, quick identification of how best to support a child. Children are motivated by the resources.’ SENCO, Derby City.

Online Computer Listening Games

The ability to hear the difference between speech sounds is essential for both speech and literacy development. Our interactive online graded listening activities can be used across the whole class to develop good listening and sound discrimination skills. These fun engaging games guide the child through five different levels from single sounds to identifying sounds at the beginning and ends of words. An indispensable resource for the infant classroom to establish the skills needed to access early phonics.

‘The teacher, TA & children thoroughly enjoy using your resources. It is certainly a tool we will continue to use.’ Headteacher, Primary School, Kent.

Find out more about our packages, book a free trial, or view pricing at

Case Study: The impact of using Language Link in one Kent Primary School


Language Link is an assessment and intervention package used by schools to enable pupils with developmental language difficulties and those new to English access the curriculum. To investigate the impact of Language Link interventions a small scales study was carried out in a large mainstream primary school in Kent.

The study took place in a large, three form entry primary school in East Kent. The school had a wide and varied catchment area. Staff were familiar with the Language Link package and had experience delivering the package in previous academic years. All staff involved had previously received training in how to use the package.


The Language Link assessment identified 34 pupils aged between 4:01 and 5:00 years to take part in this study. They were assessed on a range of standardised tests and then assigned to either an experimental group (n=20) or a control group (n=14). The experimental group was divided into smaller groups of 3 or 4 pupils who all received the same small group intervention aimed at improving their understanding of concepts and the ability to follow instructions. The groups ran for 8 x 30 min sessions and were delivered by an experienced Teaching Assistant.

Each Language Link group session involved a warm-up game, two 10 minute activities, and a plenary session. A plan detailing the aims, target vocabulary, resources needed and detailed instructions for each activity is provided by the Language Link programme.

This study set out to answer two important questions:

1) Would the intervention make a difference?

2) What areas of language would improve?


The children in the experimental group who took part in the Language Link intervention made more progress in their ability to follow instructions involving concepts than those in the control group.

The children in the experimental group also made more progress in other areas of their language.

There was a significant difference (p<0.001) between the two groups before intervention but not after intervention on the CELF 4UK Concepts and Directions test. The children in the experimental group made significant progress in their ability to follow instructions.

Did the children who received intervention make progress with their understanding of language?


After the interventions more children were scoring within the expected range for their age for understanding and expressive language.


The Language Link intervention group impacted positively on the children in the study. The group targeted understanding of concepts and following instructions.

The children made significant progress in this area compared to the control group. The experimental group also improved in their use of oral language with more children scoring within the expected range for their age following the intervention.

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