A two-year pilot project involving several Teesside primary schools has improved the speech, language and communication skills of nursery pupils (3 and 4-year-olds).
Ad Astra Academy Trust, which oversees eight primary schools in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees, joined forces with SHINE – an education charity that works with schools and other organisations, to help children reach their true potential – to launch the £52,000 initiative in 2021.
Such has been the success of the scheme; Ad Astra Academy Trust bosses are set to continue the programme across its eight primary schools.
Pete Wiley, Ad Astra Academy Trust’s School Improvement Lead, said: “Among our schools, we observed that two-thirds of pupils enter reception with below-typical language and communication skills.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated this problem, leading to a surge in referrals to speech and language services, which are already overwhelmed.”
The Trust developed a wide-ranging project, encompassing various strategies designed to enhance children’s communication and language abilities.
These included improving the quality of nursery environments, equipping staff with the necessary skills to foster high-quality interactions with children, and involving parents in the process.
Since the project began, schools across the Trust have witnessed significant improvements in how well children communicate.
For example, at West View Primary School in Hartlepool, 51.1% of children are classed as “ready for reception” this year when it comes to listening and attention – an improvement of 10 percentage points (40.8%) on the previous year.
Regarding speaking, 46.6% are deemed “ready for reception” – an improvement of 8 percentage points (38.6%) compared to last year.
Laura Wears, SHINE Champion at West View Primary School in Hartlepool, commented, “There’s certainly a case to run this project indefinitely. Language-rich environments, with highly skilled staff, are the key to developing young people’s speech, language, and communication skills.
“These skills are fundamental building blocks within a child’s development, and it is imperative to embed this early in a child’s education.”
Meanwhile, at Brougham Primary School there have been several initiatives including:
Fiona Nicholson, Deputy Headteacher at Rosebrook Primary School in Stockton-on-Tees, said: “It is so important that our youngest children get off to the best possible start at school and the SHINE project has helped us to focus on the children who need additional support to bring their speech and language skills to the required level.
“It has enabled us to invest in a variety of resources to promote creativity and imagination. Staff have also taken part in training around developing questioning and vocabulary to ensure our school is a ‘word rich’ environment.
“It has been a really positive project with a marked improvement of communication skills amongst 3 and 4-year-olds which is vital to their future learning.”
Pete Wiley added: “The project has been a real success story. Staff knowledge and understanding of how to support communication and language has grown, pupils are generally making better progress and parental involvement has improved.”
Ad Astra Academy Trust was formed in 2015 and over the last seven years has grown across the Tees Valley, providing education for over 3,000 pupils and 500 employees in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees.
The eight primary schools within Ad Astra Academy Trust are Barnard Grove, Brougham, West Park and West View in Hartlepool, Crooksbarn and Rosebrook in Stockton-on-Tees and Ayresome and Sunnyside in Middlesbrough.
Pupils and staff from West View and Brougham primary schools in Hartlepool
Issued by Alastair Rae on behalf of Ad Astra Academy Trust. For further information, contact Alastair on 0758 1239557.