Current Challenges for Language Development

Analysis of 50,000 Infant Language Link assessments performed in the autumn term 2020 showed an increase of over 20% in the numbers of Reception pupils starting school with the lowest levels of language.

We compiled the results from schools that screened all their Reception pupils with Infant Language Link in the autumn term 2020. Early in the term, this showed an average increase of 20% in those falling below the 6th percentile (standard score of 77) compared to the same period in 2019.

It wasn’t all bad news, by the end of the autumn term many children were catching up in comparison to previous years. Yet there remained a high level of need with up to one in three children still requiring some level of support with their language, most of whom would not meet the usual criteria for referral to speech and language therapy.

Since these figures were collated we have experienced a further national lockdown. The effect of this on children’s language development is largely unknown but expected to be highly detrimental, affecting learning, literacy, socialising and behaviour.

What can you do?

We’ve been helping schools to support speech and language for nearly twenty years, it’s all we do!


We would like to make our standardised, child friendly Infant Language Link assessments and interventions available to you free of charge for the summer term 2021; you can complete unlimited assessments to discover the level of language support needed in your classroom.

Our assessments give recommendations for all children with a discernible level of need, including those that would not usually meet referral criteria.

For your free summer subscription, you will also have access to our listening group interventions for each of years R, 1 and 2. Listening skills being the essential basis of language development and the usual starting point for language intervention recommended by speech and language therapists. These groups can be completed in one term and the free subscription includes online training and live webinars for all your staff.

Where does Infant Language Link fit in?

How many children need additional support?

10% of all children have long-term, persistent oral language difficulties that are likely to need support throughout schooling. In addition, in years prior to Covid, upwards of 50% of children, particularly in areas of social disadvantage, started school with below average language skills. This is likely to have been significantly exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. These children would not meet the criteria for specialist speech and language therapy support. Their difficulties are transient and with the right support in place in school, they can catch up. However, language difficulties are a ‘hidden need’ which are difficult to identify from observation alone, meaning large numbers of children are falling through the gaps. Without difficulties being identified and support in place, there is a significant impact on literacy development, behaviour and academic attainment for these children. With intense pressure on schools to close the attainment gap, it is even more crucial that schools have tools in place to identify and support these children.

Infant Language Link is a whole school package designed to identify children having difficulty understanding language and enable schools to use precious resources efficiently by providing a continuum of support across three tiers.

Infant Language Link enables schools to provide early identification and intervention for all children with language difficulties, to help raise attainment and close the gap.

Pie Chart. This graph shows the national picture for the prevalence of language difficulties in children.

Universal, targeted, specialist triangle graphic.


In package training builds practitioners’ knowledge of language development and ability to use strategies to provide communication friendly classrooms. This benefits all children within the classroom and many children with language needs can be supported through quality first teaching strategies alone. Specific advice and strategies are provided to enable schools to support EAL pupils most effectively within the classroom.


Children identified with mild to moderate difficulties will not meet criteria for referral to speech and language therapy services, but need support in place in order to progress. Planned and resourced intervention groups, delivered by school staff, effectively boost language skills for these children.


The package works alongside any current SEN and specialist support available for your school. Children with more severe difficulties, who may benefit from specialist support from speech and language therapy, are identified, to ensure schools can make the best use of external agency support.

Your FREE Summer Subscription

Infant Language Link provides a whole school approach; it is for all children with language needs including those that would not normally meet the criteria for referral.

Unlimited Language Assessments R to Y2 (P1 to P3)

Unlimited Language Assessments R to Y2 (P1 to P3)

Your free summer subscription includes a child friendly assessment of the understanding of language with no limit on the number of assessments you can do. Created by our speech and language therapy team and standardised in conjunction with the University of Cambridge, this is not the type of assessment which is passed or failed. It looks at key areas of language and highlights where extra help may be required and suggests discussion with a speech and language therapist if appropriate.

Classroom Strategies

Classroom Strategies

Strategies for differentiation and supporting resources are an essential part of the Infant Language Link whole school approach. Created by our speech and language therapy team these are included for children from Reception to Year 2.

Language intervention resources

Listening Group Interventions

Listening Group Interventions

Within your free summer subscription, you will have access to the listening groups for each year. Listening skills are the usual starting point recommended by therapists for language intervention and help to develop the skills which underpin literacy. These are delivered as eight half-hour sessions and can be completed within the time you have available in the summer term.

There are 15 different planned language intervention groups available within the full Infant Language Link package. Instructions, tracking sheets, printable PDF resources and training are all included.

Assessments on screen

Progress Measures

Progress Measures

Infant Language Link enables you to track impact with a powerful set of progress measures. Our Teacher Engagement Ratings help teachers set targets for improvement across key classroom skills including, communication, participation, self regulation, active involvement and social confidence.



Our flexible, dynamic reports provide the information you need. Reports and provision maps can make the overall level of need clear for inspection and show in-school improvement for each child, class and year group.


Training and Support

Training and support

Training is included. This is based on in-package videos and live webinars with our speech and language therapy team. The free subscription also gives access to our therapist supported Speech and Language Help Desk. Any school day, we are just a phone call or email away.

The Difference Infant Language Link Makes

Thumbs up school children.

“The programme has not only been highly effective in identifying needs in children that we, as educationalists, presume require support but also in identifying children whose teachers did not think they had communication or comprehension gaps. However, on completion of the target interventions these children have made accelerated progress, which is an excellent outcome. Limited language skills and low levels of communication are the major barriers to learning in communities where there are higher levels of deprivation and low aspirations, the Language Link programme enables whole classes to be assessed and provides a programme to break this barrier down. 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, Head Teacher of Overdale Primary, Scarborough

The assessments, activities and strategies within Infant Language Link were all created by our team of speech and language therapists to reflect the advice they would give in schools on a daily basis. Evaluation of Infant Language Link has shown that schools delivering it make a significant difference to children’s language, boost their practitioner’s confidence, and effect real change in classroom practice.

Birmingham Study Graph

Comparison graph

Boosting Language Skills in Birmingham Schools

The results of our recent study, outlined below, were overwhelmingly positive. There were highly significant differences in performance, with the experimental group making more progress compared to the control group, across all assessment measures.

Children receiving intervention made an average of 5 months’ progress, above expected progress due to maturation, compared to an average of 2 months’ progress made by control children.

Evaluating the Impact of Infant Language Link in Reception Classes

We compared the progress of Reception children from schools using the package, with the progress of those from control schools providing a standard language support offer. Sixty eight children identified as having below average understanding of language were assessed at the beginning and end of the academic year, on a range of recognised language assessments. Children in experimental schools received intervention over just two terms, attending an average of 13 weekly half hour sessions, delivered by TAs. All children in the experimental schools received a listening group first, providing the foundation for further language intervention.

Closing the Gap

At the end of the study, 75% of the experimental children needed no further support for their understanding of language, compared to 44% of the control children, and this difference between the groups was found to be significant.

Of the 36 experimental children, 23 were re-screened using the Infant Language Link assessment by their schools at the start of Year 2. The results showed that the children maintained their gains in language, indicating that the intervention had ‘closed the gap’ between the children and their peers.

The Scarborough Pledge Initiative

In an independent trial, five schools in Scarborough introduced Infant Language Link as part of the wider Scarborough Pledge to improve outcomes for children. The schools screened Year R, 1 and 2 pupils in the autumn term 2016 and recommended interventions were carried out during the year, with the pupils then re-screened in the autumn term 2017.

Across the five schools, 93 children were identified by the assessment as needing support, with 35 of those recommended for discussion with speech and language therapy services. At the end of the pilot, 52% of the children needed no further support for language skills, and only 21 children were recommended for specialist support.

Due to the success of the initial trial, further schools joined the project and today, 21 schools in Scarborough continue to use Infant Language Link to support their children.

Infant Language Link is used by schools across the country in the same way that it was used in the impact studies, so these are the results that you can expect from using the package in your school. We actively respond to feedback from school users and our online delivery is well placed to keep materials up to date, ensuring that this package is not only robust but is easy to implement in real classrooms.


BETT Awards 2021 Finalist


Infant Language Link – Nominated

In the Classroom Aids for Learning, Teaching and Assessment category. This Award aims to reward innovation in and commitment to the development of learning, teaching and assessment tools.

ERA 2019 Winner


in 2019, Infant Language Link was judged by teaching professionals to support and enhance the learning of pupils and work of teaching staff.

Data Privacy and Security

Cyber Essentials Certified Plus Logo

Our support websites and processes are designed to comply with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), UK data protection laws and associated design codes. Our staff are all trained in appropriate data handling procedures and we have Cyber Essentials Plus certification.

All pupil data is held on dedicated hardware in ISO27001 certified UK data centres, all data is encrypted in transit and personal data is encrypted at rest. The Privacy Notice for our schools’ support site is available to read on the sign-up page for your free summer subscription.

As a subscriber you can choose your period of data retention. As a participant in the free summer subscription all stored personal data will be anonymised after September 30th 2021 unless you choose to continue the subscription. You can also explicitly request anonymisation at any time.

If you have any queries relating to data protection you are welcome to contact our Data Protection Officer:

Benefits of Infant Language Link Graphic

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