The Ultimate Guide to SLCN

Part 1 - Background

Page 16-23: Making your school more communication friendly

Making your school more communication friendly

Communication friendly schools provide a safe, inclusive environment for all children, but are especially beneficial for students with SLCN. There are a number of things a school needs to have in place before they can truly become a communication friendly school.

A designated member of staff for SLCN

A designated member of staff to oversee the provision of support for SLCN in the school enables one member of staff to be trained to a higher level in SLCN. This person, often a HLTA, provides school staff and parents with someone to ask for advice and can liaise with SaLT, making the most of this support. This person can then disseminate and cascade information throughout the school.

Training for staff on SLCN

It is beneficial for all staff to have an understanding and knowledge of SLCN so that they can apply this in their teaching and interaction to ensure all children are able to access learning. Regular professional development training could focus on raising awareness of SLCN and using classroom approaches to support children.

Can Language Link help?

Part of the Language Link package includes training for staff. There are background videos to use at staff meetings for all staff and more detailed training for individual staff members in the use of each aspect of the package.

Universal screening for SLCN

Many children with SLCN are slipping through the net because their difficulties are commonly disguised by challenging behaviour, literacy difficulties and/or poor academic progress. In addition, children with SLCN can be very adept at using context, visual cues and routines to mask difficulties understanding language. It is important to consider universal screening at several stages of a child’s school career to ensure that everyone with SLCN is identified and the correct support can be put in place early. The information from universal screening can also be used to inform whole school planning.

Can Language Link help?

Language Link provides standardised assessment which will identify any difficulty understanding language. The assessment will highlight the level of need, the particular area(s) of language that needs support and who would benefit from intervention.

A system for monitoring progress for pupils with SLCN

The school needs a clear way of monitoring and evaluating progress for pupils with SLCN. This could include carrying out regular classroom observations or ‘learning walks’ to ensure high quality teaching strategies and differentiation are in place. There needs to be a structured system in place to measure the effectiveness of differentiated work and interventions for pupils with SLCN.

Can Language Link help?

Collection of outcome data forms an integral part of the Language Link package. Pupil and parent views help staff establish targets, engagement ratings are completed by the teacher to monitor the impact of language work on classroom performance, and group outcomes show the impact of intervention.

A communication audit

The use of staff training, an audit tool and a communication friendly school checklist can support schools to identify areas of strength and areas to develop, with clear action plans identified.

A policy for SLCN

It is important to have a written policy outlining the systems in place to identify and support children with SLCN. This should be shared with all staff and updated in line with training and current practices.

Transition planning

Have a clear way of passing information on students with SLCN on to staff members as the student moves up through the school This should include details about interventions and targets, successful classroom strategies, current assessment results and the impact of any interventions.

Can Language Link help?

The Language Link Pupil Report and Provision Map provide a record of all assessment results, interventions and outcomes for those interventions. They build up an ongoing profile across years enabling schools to support transition.

Quality first teaching strategies implemented in every classroom

The strategies on pages 20-23 represent high quality teaching and should be used for

all children as part of regular classroom practice. The strategies are particularly useful for children with SLCN and will support them to be included within the classroom. With these in place, additional targeted and specialist strategies, such as those set by a SaLT, will be more effective.

Can Language Link help?

Following a Language Link assessment, children will be recommended for in class support. Four core strategies are suggested with a comprehensive range of classroom resources designed to help teachers implement them with minimum preparation.

For more information, visit

Core Strategies

Break it down

  • Use short, simple sentences, for example when explaining tasks.
  • Break down instructions into small chunks and give actions in the order that they need to be completed.
  • Provide a breakdown of lesson activities and tasks, e.g. using a visual timetable.
  • Use writing/talking frames and sentence planners to structure activities.
  • Provide alternative recording methods as needed, e.g. laptops, voice recorders.
  • Review curriculum content to plan appropriate differentiation for pupils.
  • Explain clearly
  • Explicitly teach/discuss new words and concepts for each lesson, using word learning strategies, e.g. mind mapping.
  • Provide context by linking new ideas, words and concepts to previous learning and the children’s personal experience.
  • Try not to include new or unfamiliar vocabulary within task instructions.
  • When using non-literal language, such as idioms or sarcasm, explicitly teach the true meaning.
  • When starting a new topic, give an overview of everything that will be covered, to help provide a context and make it easier for children to retain information.
  • Highlight key information when speaking by adding stress, visual support or telling the child what the important bits are.

Check as you go

  • Use the 10 second rule: give children additional time to process spoken information, before they are required to respond. If the child does not respond after this time, repeat the question/instruction or re-phrase if you think it was too difficult.
  • Encourage children to indicate when they don’t understand what they have been asked to do and use visuals to support this, such as the Language Link Confidence Indicators.
  • Support children to be able to request specific clarification when they haven’t understood and support this with visuals, such as the Language Link Help Me Cards.
  • Monitor understanding by asking children to tell you or show you what they have to do. If you ask them if they understand, they are likely to say “yes”, even if this is not the case.
  • Discuss strategies that can help you to remember spoken information, e.g. visualising things in your head, making lists, writing key points on a white board.

Keep it visual

  • Support lesson content with visuals such as photos, pictures, diagrams, videos and natural gesture.
  • Use visuals to support children’s understanding of class rules and routines, e.g. using a visual timetable, so that they understand expected behaviours.
  • Give practical demonstrations and show finished examples of tasks.
  • Develop and use ‘working walls’ to build context of topics and provide reminders of key vocabulary and concepts.
  • Use a colour coding approach, such as Colourful Semantics, to support understanding and organisation of types of words, e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives. This can also support reading comprehension as the child can highlight key information within a text.
  • Children may need support to understand and structure questions. Using visual cues such as symbols and signs can be very helpful, for example using the Language Link Question Cue Cards or Question Box.

Adapting Talking

The way teachers and TAs use their own talking and communication skills has a huge impact on children with SLCN and can support the development of their understanding and use of language.


  • Complete pre-teaching of key curriculum vocabulary, using visuals such as word maps, to support children to understand and use words within classroom activities.
  • Use repetition of key words within the classroom, as children need to hear new words lots of times within context to support their ability to understand and then use them.
  • Ensure that vocabulary teaching includes high frequency words that are included throughout the curriculum, but are not topic specific, e.g. explain, describe.
  • Support children to sort pictures/words into categories/topics and identify the links between words. Start with simple categories such as animals, food, transport and then extend to sub-categories; animals that live in the zoo vs farm.
  • Complete tasks where children need to identify what is the same and what is different about two pictures/words, using visual support such as the Language Link Descriptor Cards.
  • Provide vocabulary books for children to write new words in, which could include their own drawings or printed pictures. Use word banks including lists of key words for a topic or task to support children to use these within activities.

Listening skills

  • Ensure that you have the child’s full attention before giving an instruction or direction, by calling their name and waiting until they are looking at you before presenting information.
  • Teach the rules of good listening. Once established, the child can be given reminders using prompts, for example using the Language Link Good Listening Cards.
  • Use visual support, such as a ‘noise meter’ to monitor levels of background noise within the classroom. It can be difficult for children to filter out background noise and focus on an adult speaking, especially if they are having difficulty understanding.
  • When speaking, ensure that the child can see your face clearly and that you are not standing in front of the light source.
  • Support children to understand how long they need to maintain their attention before they will have a listening/movement break or get a reward, e.g. using a visual timetable, sand timers etc.


  • If children make errors when speaking, model the sentence back to them correcting the error, for example if the child says “Him falled down” you would say ‘Yes, he fell down’.
  • For children who are using very short, limited sentences, add on a word for them to support development of their sentence structures, e.g. if the child says, “car fast”, you would say ‘car driving fast’.
  • Use commenting to describe what children are doing within a task, rather than questioning which puts the child under pressure to answer. Leave pauses to allow the child to join in, if they are able to, e.g. ‘The bucket is full of sand… you’ve put two shells on top’.
  • Include children within social skills groups to target specific skills, such as turn taking, asking questions or maintaining conversation topics. Adults can model use of skills in context to support children’s understanding.
  • Develop children’s ability to predict and infer information using questioning, e.g. ‘What do you think will happen next?’
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