What is Stoke Speaks Out?
Stoke Speaks Out is an initiative which was set up in 2004 to tackle the high incidence of language delay identified in children in Stoke-on-Trent. It involves everyone in Stoke-on-Trent who links with children in some way. In 2002 local research identified that many children were starting nursery with poor language skills- In 2004 this was as high as 64% of children. Stoke Speaks Out was set up to train and support parents, carers, practitioners and anyone in contact with families to make communication ‘everybody’s business’.
Why is this important?
Speech and language development are the building blocks for learning. Good communication is essential for socialising, learning and to developing to your full potential. Language delay has been linked to poor educational attainment, anti-social behaviour and long term mental health difficulties. We know that the majority of brain growth takes place in the first 3 years of life so Stoke Speaks Out is focussed on early life and early education to ensure all children are supported as well as they can be.
What does it do?
We have created a ‘buzz’ about early speech, language and communication development through creating a city-wide strategy for children’s communication development. We offer training and support for all practitioners in the workforce working with children under 7 years and their families.
We also support ‘communication ambassadors’ who are people living in local communities who have an interest in children’s development and are willing to ‘spread the word’. We provide a practitioner network to discuss and develop support for speech, language and communication needs. We offer accreditation to schools and settings with a quality mark ‘communication friendly’ award. We use every and any opportunity to share key messages about early communication development.
What has it done so far?
Since setting up in 2004, the programme has trained over 4,500 practitioners in key messages around early attachment, child development and speech and language development. Between 2004 and 2010 we have seen a huge improvement in children’s language development - in 2010 around 39% of children started nursery with a delay. We have put communication development onto all key agendas and it is currently one of the city’s 5 priorities in Early Years. We have shared our findings nationally and have supported other National initiatives such as the National Year of Communication ‘Hello’ campaign.
What are our current plans?
The Stoke Speaks Out work is constantly being reviewed and enhanced to ensure all children get a good start in life. We are currently reviewing our training framework and working in partnership with the Early Years teams who are adding to the menu of training on offer. We are supporting 36 communication ambassadors to develop skills in early communication development so that they can share their knowledge with other parents and carers in their community.
2014 will see the launch of a new project called’ Stoke Reads’ which will be a multi-agency focus on encouraging early reading skills. This will involve 14 schools working intensively with parents and communities to encourage a culture of reading and story telling. In the long term this will support language and literacy development and is an exciting opportunity to really engage the whole city and to create cultural change. In addition, we hold a termly network for any practitioner from any agency working with young children.
For more information about the Stoke Speaks Out initiative please use the contact details below:
Telephone: 01782 234501
Write to: People Services Directorate, Early Years, City of Stoke on Trent, Civic Centre, Glebe Street, Stoke on Trent, ST4 1HH