Across the country, SLT services have had to ration what they can provide, due to cuts in spending on SLT. This means that services work in very different ways and have to plan how best to use the limited resources that they have to support children, parents and education staff in their area. For many schools, this means that there may be less frequent contact with SLT services and the type of support that is offered may look different, for example, focusing on indirect support and training rather than directly working with pupils.

This ‘postcode lottery’ of support was outlined in the England Children’s Commissioner’s report We need to talk: Access to speech and language therapy, published in June. The report revealed a huge disparity in spending on SLT support across the country, with spending cuts in many areas. This received media attention within an article by the BBC News Education Reporter and was featured in our SLCN blog.

As a result of spending cuts, schools can feel that they are left to manage the impact of SLCN themselves and it can feel that the time available from SLT is very limited. With that in mind, here are five ways that you can make the most out of your time from SLT:

1. Have a clear plan for each visit

You may not always feel that you have a say in what your visit time is used for but it is very beneficial to make a plan jointly with your SLT. This means that you know what to prepare for the visit and the information that the SLT needs. You may have children that you would like to discuss with the SLT and it is often easier to plan and timetable this in rather than trying to catch the SLT when they are in school.

This could include developing a joint checklist for discussions about pupils so that both the SLT and school have all the key information needed to have a valuable discussion.

2. Identify a key member of staff for SLCN

If you haven’t already, think about identifying a key member of staff to have a specialist role in working with pupils with SLCN. They can then observe sessions with the SLT to increase their skills and knowledge, picking up hints and tips immediately to transfer to their work with children and making the best use of the SLT’s time.

3. Get quality first teaching strategies in place

All children benefit from working in an environment which supports development of speech, language and communication skills. Having quality first teaching strategies in place at a universal level means that it is easier to identify those children that need additional specialist support. Supporting good practice at a universal level will enhance the development of language and communication skills for typically developing children as well as those with SLCN.

4. Have a system for screening children

Having a system in place to screen children means that you can identify pupils who need further specialist assessment and advice from a SLT. Then your SLT time can be used to speak about children who really need that level of specialist support and you can more quickly put in place support for children that need in class strategies or intervention groups within school.

5. Get together with other schools

Speak to other schools in your area and identify areas of training need that you have in common. It would be easier and more time effective for the SLT service to provide training to a group of schools at the same time to discuss and demonstrate an intervention with staff at different schools. If you have a key member of staff working with pupils with SLCN, they could arrange time to meet with staff working in a similar role in other schools, to share knowledge and skills.

From my experience, SLTs are feeling just as frustrated and stressed as you are in trying to support children with SLCN and have the same challenges in doing this successfully. Having a conversation with your SLT about making a joint plan for support could help to make your SLT time more efficient and successful for both your school and the SLT service.

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