As a previous advisory teacher for SLCN, I have held a long-standing fascination with language and literacy, and in particular the overlap between them. After working in primary schools as a teacher, SENCo and senior leader, I gained a postgraduate qualification in dyslexia. Whilst this supported my understanding of the decoding aspects of literacy, it did not quite address my interest in the oral underpinnings of language. The influence of oral language on attainment is widely known, as well its impact on other life outcomes for children, such as behaviour, criminality, mental health and employment prospects.

“The LACIC online learning platform is engaging and simple to use, with units completed on a weekly basis linked to your work role.”

Twenty years ago, I decided to pursue my interest in oral language. It was notoriously difficult to gain a qualification in SLCN as a teacher, with just two training providers in the UK, both through distance learning. I chose the LACIC (Language and Communication Impairment in Children) post-graduate diploma, which is offered at the Human Communication Sciences Department of Sheffield University. A number of reasons affected my choice. Some of the most eminent people in the field worked in the department (and this continues to this day) and it is exciting to speak to and work alongside those who produce the ideas, research and resources we use in the classroom. Also, LACIC students come from a range of backgrounds. The multidisciplinary nature of the course facilitates collaboration between education professionals and speech and language therapists; fostering new and stimulating insights that might not arise within a single profession. Finally, I chose LACIC because it offered me the chance to learn about the aspect of SLCN I was most interested in – children and their learning of language and literacy!

The LACIC programme is offered as a two-year post-graduate diploma, or a three-year MSc, all studied part-time through distance learning. The LACIC online learning platform is engaging and simple to use, with units completed on a weekly basis linked to your work role. There are opportunities to attend study weekends at Sheffield University several times annually, with lectures, tutorials and valuable opportunities for discussion with other professionals from across the UK and beyond. Taken together, the learning activities guide LACIC students to develop an advanced knowledge and understanding of SLCN, as well as to extend their confidence in using the evidence base to further improve their inclusive practice.

The core content of the course focusses on the links between language and literacy. Year one begins with a module on ‘Children’s Learning’ which explores vital psychological aspects, such as attention, perception and memory. Further set modules include ‘Spoken and Written Language’, ‘Language and Communication’ and ‘Developing an Evidence- Base for Practice’, which supports professionals to evaluate and critically use the research findings to inform their practice. Year two develops students’ research skills and provides options to specialise in different areas, e.g., developmental language disorder (DLD), autism, dyslexia, literacy, multilingualism, speech, adolescence and early years.

A number of years after completing the diploma, I decided to pursue the MSc, completed over two years. My dissertation looked at the impact of vocabulary intervention for pupils with SLCN, comparing traditional meaning-based instruction with a method that includes attention to the sound structure of the word. I have since carried on to a PhD in the department to further the research base into classroom vocabulary teaching. By the time I complete my PhD in 2022, my involvement with LACIC and the Sheffield Human Communication Sciences department will have lasted 25 years!

Further information about LACIC can be found on the website:

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