News and updates from Education Works - providing innovative, effective
support programmes in reading, speaking, listening and maths.


Monthly Musings

We thought we would like to share things that are currently interesting us and informing our thinking. Each month we will give you a link to an interesting article, news item or video clip.

October 2023 Musing

Speech and Language UK have recently published a report entitled, 'Listening to Unheard Children. A shocking rise in speech and language challenges.'

The data speaks volumes and is truly worrying. 1.9 million children in the UK are behind with their talking and/or struggling to understand words. This is the highest number ever recorded. This continues to cause serious issues in the years to come, as these children are:

six times more likely to fail English tests at age 11,

eleven times less likely to pass maths,

twice as likely to have a mental health problem, and

twice as likely to be unemployed as an adult.

It's time to call on political leaders, education leaders and concerned families and young people in working towards a country where every child has the skills they need to face the future with confidence.

To read the full report click here.

May 2022 Musing

We have a bit of a 'buy one get one free' for you this month.

In March the APPG for Oracy Education, 'Speak for Change' responded to the government white paper stating that there needed to be a much greater focus in schools on children's language and communication skills. Click here to read more

Follow their recent twitter feed to find out more about positive developments. It is excellent news to hear that Ofsted's 'English Research Review', detailing good practice, highlights the fundamental importance of vocabulary and language development. As we all know these are the essential building blocks for all learning

January 2022 Musing

Do you work with a child who has hearing impairment? Do you have concerns that a child may have an undiagnosed hearing impairment?

Engage Education have written a really helpful article, 'How to support a child with a hearing impairment in school'. It is a useful resource for parents and teachers of deaf students.

This is particularly significant at the moment due to recent government guidance which "strongly advises" staff and pupils  to wear  face-coverings in communal areas at school. This can however cause extreme challenges for pupils with hearing impairments and it is therefore absolutely vital that staff and parents are provided with the necessary tools to support them.

If you would like to read their advice in full please click here

January Musing... Free video course for parents and carers to help children learn confidently and independently

Education Researcher Dr James Mannion works for UCL, Institute of Education and is a member of Oracy Cambridge Study Centre. He and a colleague have written an online course for parents and carers. They are offering it free. Here's what he says about it;

During Lockdown 1.0, Kate and I made a free video course for parents and carers who want to help their kids become more confident, independent learners. We weren't planning on publishing it yet because we wanted to re-do the videos, but Lockdown 3.0 has promoted us to go live. We plan to develop the course more in the weeks ahead, based on people's feedback. There's also a community forum where people can share their stories and get support from us, and from one another.

Here's the link - It's a Mighty Network, so it works on all devices.

If you are a parent or carer, please join us! And if you know any (and who doesn't), please share this with anyone who you think might be interested!

Thanks so much - hope you're all safe and sound,


December Musing... Does self-talk make a difference?

We often hear about the benefits of Mindfulness and how positive self-talk can improve our self esteem. Ian Robert Hadden and a group of colleagues from the School of Economics and Political Science, Sussex and Brighton Universities, have been exploring whether self-affirmation can improve the attainment of pupils with low socio-economic status.

Data from the United States shows that students from some ethnic backgrounds are subject to stereotype threat and that self affirmation writing exercises can reduce adverse effects.

In England socio-economic status (SES) is a much stronger predictor of academic success than ethnicity. Hadden et al set up a study to explore whether self-affirmation might have a positive impact for pupils of low SES. The randomised control study took place in a large Secondary School in Southern England with 562, 11-14 year olds. 128 of these were elegible for free school meals (a measure commonly used to identify SES).

Not only did results show a 62% reduction of the attainment gap but low SES pupils also reported a reduction in stress.

Why not take a look at the full research study

March Musing... Have you ever wondered how you learned to talk?

Sarah Durrant is a researcher for the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD). In her blog she discusses the journey we all take as we acquire language and become expert communicators. Sarah's Blog also describes recent research discoveries about how babies learn to speak, listen and think - a fascinating read!

February Musing ... How well can you 'mentalise'?

Peter Fonagy (Freud Professor of Psychoanalysis at University College London and Director of the Anna Freud Centre) uses this term to describe ‘our ability to see ourselves from the outside and others from the inside’ and sees this as a cornerstone of our mental health. He has devised a ground breaking treatment programme, which has helped many thousands of people facing mental health challenges.

Here at Education Works we believe firmly in the power of early intervention. Our nurturingtalk@primary programme is designed to develop children’s language and thought processes, helping them to communicate effectively with other children and adults. It is used with children who have social , emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties. It actually helps these pupils to ‘mentalise’ improving their chances of positive mental health outcomes.

With this in mind we thought you would be interested to listen to this BBC Podcast where Peter is interviewed about his revolutionary research and treatment programme

February Musing... Listen again!

Recently Radio 4 broadcast a programme titled 'Why can't our children talk?'. It explores the debate about why children are entering school with poor communication skills. If you missed it we are giving you the chance to listen now!

Radio 4 'Why can't our children talk?'

Teachers all over the country report that children are arriving at school unable to communicate properly. They have limited vocabulary, no eye contact, don’t know nursery rhymes or stories, may not even know their own address.

Why it’s happening is a matter of debate - there’s little clear evidence. Most people blame screen time. But maybe screens are a symptom, not a cause.

Kim Normanton sets out to explore what’s going on, talking to teachers, parents and language researchers. She visits schemes in Liverpool, Yorkshire and Stoke-on-Trent that are trying to intervene and boost the language skills of young children. What’s certain is that problems start very early on, so maybe we need to look more closely at how we talk to very young children and babies right from the start.

Kim is a former reception teacher and has observed children first-hand struggling to understand conversation or follow verbal instructions. “One day the whiteboard was broken and it was hopeless trying to get them to focus to teach them anything,” she says.

Children who start school with reduced language skills may never recover. A child's vocabulary size at age two predicts their academic achievement right up to age 16. Children arriving at school with limited language skills are twice as likely to be unemployed.

January Musing... And so to bed...

Fiona Phimister, School Development Coordinator at Bowling Park Primary School, Bradford has written an inspiring article for The Book Trust about the importance of the bedtime story, both for bonding and child development. She shares the personal joy of sharing books with her own young child. She also explains how her school, in partnership with other local schools, is encouraging parents to share the fun. click here to read the complete article.

November Musing....

This month we share a fascinating article written by Dr Lyn Dawes for Oracy Cambridge. At a recent conference workshop, she asked teachers to do a simple listening activity.... It wasn't quite as simple as they thought. The article highlights the issues for the teachers and implications for our work with pupils. click here to read the complete article.

October Musing....

Our conversations with children really do matter. Regardless of who we are and where we live, we have the power to make a difference.

Young children who are regularly engaged in conversation by adults may have stronger connections between two developing brain regions critical for language, according to a study of healthy young children that confirms a hypothesis registered with the Open Science Framework. This finding was independent of parental income and education, suggesting that talking with children from an early age could promote their language skills regardless of their socioeconomic status.

If you would like to read more click here

September Musing...

'Today’s young people will face challenges their grandparents could not have imagined and, if they are to thrive in an uncertain future, a creative education is not a luxury – it is the greatest gift we can give them.'

In his recent article, 'A creative education is the greatest gift we can give', written for the TES, Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, discusses the imperative for  creative education. He discusses the questions 'What are the arts for? Why do we encourage creativity? Why do we teach children to play, to perform, to paint?'.

We thought you would be interested to read more. Click here to read the full article.

July Musing...

The Children's Charity I CAN and The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists have just published a new report 'Bercow Ten Years On', which sets out the state of provision for children's speech, language and communication in 2018.

The report highlights that poor understanding and insufficient resourcing, mean that too many children and young people are not receiving the support they need. This not only impacts on their education but their life chances as well. The report seeks to explain how it CAN be different. Click here to read a summary of the report.

April Musing...

London Teacher, Andria Zafirakou has just won this year's Global Teacher Prize (Varkey Foundation). In the attached interview with the Guardian Newspaper, she explains her priorities and what is important for her students; 'Build the trust with your kids- then everything else can happen'.... so communication skills are vital to the 'best teacher in the world' - It's official. Click here to read the full article.

March Musing...

Have you ever been confused about the difference between 'Oracy' and 'Dialogic Talk'? This month we thought you might be interested to read this article by Neil Mercer, (Emeritus Professor of Education, Cambridge and Director of oracy@cambridge), in which he explains the difference and the importance of both. He tells us that 'Oracy is the direct, explicit teaching of speaking and listening skills as part of the language and literacy curriculum', whereas 'Dialogic Talk is a set of talk based strategies for teaching any subject'. To find out what he has to say click here

Here at Education Works we believe a combination of both makes for sound learning and effective CPD for teachers and education professionals. This understanding underpins all our speaking and listening projects and interventions

November Musing...

In the attached article, Kate Townshend, writing for the TES, interviews Dr Jessie Ricketts, director of the Language and Reading Aquisition (LARA) research lab at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Dr Richetts says, 'I cannot underline the importance of oral language for reading enough... We know that children with better language abilities go on to have better educational and socio-emotional outcomes.'

She is currently researching the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading. 'Whilst vocabulary might play an important part in children learning to read in the first place, once they actually are reading, this debt to spoken language is likely to be repaid. Once Children learn to read, reading abilities impact on vocabulary and the relationship becomes reciprocal.'

We think you'll find this a fascinating read. Click here to read the article in full.

September Musing...

‍This month we are attaching a link to the TES article interviewing Kate Nation, Professor of Psychology at St John's Oxford. She states...

'Two sets of things are critical for early readers. You have to understand how the writing system works- the idea that letters represent sounds... and then the other side of the coin is that we need to comprehend, too. We need that alphabetic principle but we also need a broader understanding of language.'

The article, her views and findings, emphasise the importance of of language development and comprehension alongside good quality phonics teaching. This serves to underline the importance of programmes such as TP@P/S and BR@P/S which directly support those children who are in danger of missing out on essential life skills.

Click here to read the article in full

July Musing...

This month, we have news of an interesting project carried out by ten Camden primary schools that formed a Teacher Research Group.They looked at the learning  of times tables to automatic recall level.  They wanted to help the children to learn, remember and understand their times table/division facts.

This group of primary schools formed in September 2016 and the results of their ongoing research can now be read in a short article from the June 2017 ncetm, primary magazine, issue 96, and seen in a video sequence hyperlinked in  issue 97 of the magazine from July 2017.  

Please click the above links to read the results of their findings and to view their inter-school 'Spring Slam' competition.

April Musings...

This months we have two interesting reports that you may be interested in reading:

'Talking About a Generation' is a paper from the Communication Trust which discusses current policy, evidence and practice for speech, language and communication click here to find a copy of the report

'Young people: Changing Times' is a joint publication by the BBC and the Open University. It discusses life and on-going challenges for young people in today's society. The booklet was produced to accompany the BBC One series 'Child of our time'. Click here to read it

March Musings...

This month we want to share the continuing success of Talkingpartners@primary. The results, as in previous years, are outstanding. As always the Renfrew Language Scales: Action Picture Test was used as the standardised measure. This assessment measures two areas of productive oral language: Information given  and grammar used. Pupils made average gains of 1 year 9 months (21.3m) in Information and 1 year 2 months (14.4m) in Grammar. Many thanks to everybody who shared data and made this report possible. If you would like to download a copy of the report please click here.

February Musings...

discusses 4 main factors: parenting, technology, impatience and
environment. Some very interesting messages that many of us could

Click here to find out what he has to say.

January musings...Ensuring children and young people reach their full potential by becoming confident communicators is at the heart of our work at EW.

Here are a couple of articles that may be of interest:

Read this cutting edge article from Voice 21 and the English Speaking Union 

Voice 21 have also published this report The State of Speaking in Our Schools by Will Millard and Loic Menzies.

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