Natasha Oswald | Tilbury Pioneer Academy
Recent studies have shown that there is an increasing number of children entering the EYFS with an extensive gap in their communication and vocabulary. This has particularly been recognised in areas with a higher level of deprivation. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) has long been seen as the opportunity to build firm foundations for the future academic and social development of children, but there has been little focus on the teaching of Oracy skills. While children have been leaving our EYFS with exceptional mathematical skills and the ability to write, they have little understanding of how to talk about what it is they’ve done.
I believe that by introducing universal provision of speech and language lessons children in the EYFS will not only improve their ability to achieve at least a two in their communication and understanding Early Learning Goals (ELG) but will also improve their ability to express their feelings, reason about the answers they have found and ask the questions they need to continue to deepen their learning. Elliot (2011) has found that 88% of long-term unemployed men have been found to have a speech, language and communication need (SLCN) but through early intervention in the EYFS and education of key workers in the setting, we can hope to reduce this over the years.
At the beginning of the children’s reception year we assessed their current communication and understanding abilities by using baseline assessments such as observing children’s interactions with adults and peers and having children take part in specific listening and speaking activities. These assessments provided us with the following information.
The data provided by these baseline assessments showed that these children, all boys, were not expected to make their GLD by the end of their reception year. Important to note is that 2 of these children did not attend the onsite nursery at Tilbury Pioneer Academy (TPA), therefore they did not have access to our earliest provision for speech and language, Early Talk Boost, which is run in small groups throughout both the first and second years of nursery.
Intervention & intended impact
Working with the help of an outside Speech and Language therapist (SaLT) and using resources found at voice21.org, I devised modifications to common interventions used for one to one support for those with identified SLCN to fit within a 5 minute whole class session in Reception. These included Language for Thinking, Black Sheep Press two part sequencing and Colourful Semantics. I ran a number of after school 15 minute training sessions for all EYFS staff to ensure that they had the skills and knowledge to implement these activities within class. Once the staff were then confident in their implementation of these activities I introduced them to a number of activities from the Voice21 resources website. Together as a team we adapted these activities to suit the children in the EYFS.
At the end of the academic year, the intended outcome would be that the focus children will have improved their understanding, speaking, and listening and attention ELG to at least a level two. This will also show an impact in their daily behaviour and socialising.
The head of school and board of governors were all consulted prior to this impact project taking place. All gave their verbal consent for the project to take place under the proviso that I provided regular updates to the board of governors. There was no need for parental consent as the impact project made up a normal part of every child’s day in Reception. Both classes accessed the universal provision.
Openness and transparency
The head of school, board of governors and EYFS team were kept up to date at all times with impact project findings. All reception parents were invited into school to learn about the importance of oracy and learn about what their children had been learning about in class.
Privacy and Confidentiality
Children deserve the right to have their anonymity preserved throughout the action impact research process. This will be done by identifying children as Student A, B, C and D. No other identifying information such as names will be shared.
The impact data shows that the implementation of universal provision for speech and language has had a positive impact on the student’s outcomes in speaking, listening, understanding and communication. I believe that this is because of the strong work ethic and passion of those working in the EYFS at the Academy. Staff have been well trained through the Early Excellence program and have utilised their knowledge and expertise in different areas to adapt and modify oracy activities to suit the children’s needs. There are exceptional adult / child interactions throughout the day. Parents were also invited in to partake in workshops discussing the importance of their language development and provided with practical resources to take away and complete at home.
Throughout the course of the academic year many obstacles were encountered, including staff that left their post’s mid-year and those who were reluctant to implement change. To get over these obstacles and continue with the project we ran continuous staff training. Those who were new to their posts were provided with videos taken using the IRIS software of others running the universal provision activities and then given the chance to go and watch these activities being run first hand. In order to change staff perception of oracy I ran whole staff training and implemented ‘non-negotiables’ for oracy throughout the school, these were implemented from Nursery up to Year 6 and ensured a common language and baseline of expectations for staff and students. By doing this the importance of oracy was recognised and staff developed their own passion for the development of it in their own classrooms.
Elliot, N. (2011). An investigation into the communication skills of unemployed young men. Ph.D. University of Glamorgan.