The Department for Education has today announced around £18 million worth of funding to support early development in literacy and language at home. 

Education Secretary, Damian Hinds announced the policy saying that “Education begins long before children arrive in the classroom. It begins as soon as they leave the maternity ward, in the crucial early years in the home, where their parents and carers help shape and prepare them to start school.”

Today’s announcement also includes specific funding for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND):

£6.5 million has been earmarked for projects focused on improving the early years education of children with SEND, including:

  • Funding for additional training for health visitors who work with families of young children to identify speech, language and communication needs early on, helping to address and support concerns when they can have the most impact.
  • ICAN’s Change the Conversation about Language project which will work with disadvantaged parents in three metro mayoral regions using an app called EasyPeasy.
  • Support for work across councils to encourage improved training for professionals in speech, language and communication by organisations including the Council for Disabled Children, Contact a Family, ICAN, The Communication Trust and NASEN.

Commenting on the announcement, DYT Chief Executive, Chris Rossiter said:

“Today’s announcement by the Education Secretary is a promising start and a victory for Driver Youth Trust and other organisations in the sector who have called for a specific focus on SEND in order to improve the language and literacy gap in the early years.

“DYT looks forward to seeing more detail of how the funding will be spent and will continue to push the government to ensure that the impact of literacy difficulties on learners is recognised and focused on as part of their plans.”

We await further details on the early years literacy strategy, particularly how it will target improving outcomes for children with SEND. Analysis by Driver Youth Trust showed that just one in two (44%) of children identified as having SEN achieved the expected standard in the phonics screening check compared to nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) for children who are not identified as SEN. Until we see the same level of political investment in addressing the systemic causes of poor literacy for children with SEND, this additional funding is unlikely to lead to wider change.

The Department does not hold any central records of the number or geographical spread of professionals who can support early language and literacy problems. DYT reported back in 2015, that closure of local authorities’ services risks this highly experienced part of the workforce simply disappearing. Some of DYT’s partner schools already report a complete loss of specialist support from their local authority and our recent research into dyslexia specialist teachers would support this. We hope that part of the £18 million announced today will address this.