Identifying speech, language and communication needs with WellComm Primary

North Star Inclusion Advisory Team offers a varied menu of support – from school-based visits to identify strategies to support individual learners, through to whole-school development projects. Nicky Martin, Inclusion Consultant explains how the service has been using GL Assessment’s WellComm Primary toolkit to support schools to identify need and plan targeted interventions.

According to the latest data released by the DfE (24 June 2021), speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) are the most common type of primary special educational need (SEN) in state schools. Almost 295,000 children were listed as having SLCN as a primary SEN in early 2021. Our service works closely with our partners in NHS Speech and Language Therapy Services, and we know that they are inundated with referrals for assessment and advice.

With this knowledge and data in mind the WellComm Primary toolkit, which can be used by Teaching Assistants and Teachers, is a valuable addition to the screening tools that schools have available. Just like the WellComm Early Years toolkit, it identifies specific aspects of a child’s speech and language and social communication skills that are a cause for concern and provides the resources needed to plan targeted intervention in the accompanying ‘Big Book of Ideas.’ The information gathered through the short screening activities and review of intervention impact supports appropriate and detailed onward referrals to speech and language therapy services, resulting in a more efficient use of NHS resources.

Key outcomes:

  1. 1

    Identify specific aspects of a child’s speech and language and social communication skills that are a cause for concern

  2. 2

    The Big Book of Ideas provides the resources needed to plan targeted intervention

  3. 3

    Supports appropriate and detailed onward referrals to speech and language therapy services

The WellComm Primary toolkit, which can be used by Teaching Assistants and Teachers, is a valuable addition to the screening tools that schools have available

Nicky Martin, Inclusion Consultant, North Star Inclusion Advisory Team

A recent example of this was seen in a school where it was unclear if a child’s learning difficulties were the result of having English as an additional language or a special educational need. The child, aged 8 years, was reportedly having difficulties gaining basic literacy skills, retaining learning and, despite living in the UK since the age of 4, difficulties using age-appropriate vocabulary.

Screening with the WellComm toolkit quickly identified that although her language understanding was at an age expected stage, she was having difficulties recalling what she had heard, structuring sentences for speaking (grammar) and difficulty retrieving vocabulary. Although she was able to recognise objects and describe how they would be used she was unable to provide labels in either English or her home language.

With evidence from the screener and other qualitative and quantitative information about the child, it was decided that there was a special educational need – therefore cycles of ‘assess, plan, do and review’ were begun. Planned interventions, including activities and general strategies from the ‘Big Book of Ideas’, were put in place to remove barriers to learning in the classroom. This included pre-teaching vocabulary, the use of sentence stems and colourful semantics to support sentence grammar.

The screener was repeated after a period of eight weeks. There was a notable improvement in the child’s ability to structure sentences for talking, however this was still a cause for concern. Their ability to recall what they had heard was still scoring in the amber zone, and the class teacher continued to express concerns about retention of subject specific vocabulary and speech articulation.

An onward referral was made to speech and language therapy, which included crucial information about specific difficulties, as well as response to well-founded intervention. The referral was accepted and an assessment is due to take place soon. In the mean-time, the school continues to deliver the targeted interventions suggested in the WellComm Primary toolkit.

North Star Inclusion Advisory Team is one of our Centres of Assessment Excellence