Validated local practice details


C4EO theme: Disability

Specialist Speech and Language Teaching Assistant Pilot Project, York

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Disability
  • General resources

Priorities this local practice example relates to:

  • Improving the well-being of disabled children (up to the age of eight) and their families through increasing the quality and range of early interventions

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

City of York Council, Educational Psychology Service

Local authority/local area:

City of York Council


The context and rationale

Background details to your example

We aimed to explore whether the provision of high quality support, delivered in schools as opposed to in clinics, improved the outcomes for young children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) and was a viable way of supporting children with these difficulties. The most relevant Every Child Matters (ECM) outcomes are ‘Be Healthy’, ‘Enjoy and Achieve’ and ‘Make a Positive Contribution’.

Following a review of local paediatric Speech and Language Therapy services, there has been a move away from individual work with a Speech and Language Therapist towards a more ecological and school based approach to supporting many children with SLCN. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has advocated this kind of approach as being more effective than individual therapy sessions.


The practice

Further details about the practice

A full time Teaching Assistant (TA) was employed by the Local Authority (LA) to work in two schools, offering individual and small-group interventions to children from the Foundation Stage and Year 1, about whose speech and language development school staff had concerns, or who were either previously or currently known to the Speech and Language Therapy Service. The TA received training and support from a Speech and Language Therapist and an Educational Psychologist.

The TA was employed specifically to work on programmes to develop speech, language and communication skills and was therefore able to offer a consistent programme of regular sessions, develop expertise and create a wide range of resources. She was accessible to parents and staff and because of the importance placed upon collaboration and communication, was able to promote a holistic approach to supporting the children incorporating both school and home environments.

Children received high-quality intervention in the context of their school, rather than having to attend clinic appointments. Close communication with teaching staff and parents ensured that individual targets were also followed up in class by all staff and by parents at home, thus following the ecological approach.

30 young children with speech, language and communication needs are supported at a cost of £21.00 per week per child (2008/10).


Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

Evidencing your practice has made a difference to children, young people and families

All of the children who received support through the project in both schools showed improved speech, language and communication skills in the first ten months of intervention.

The project has provided evidence to support the changes in the model of service delivery advocated by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and adopted by the local Primary Care Trust (PCT). It will hopefully encourage headteachers to adopt a similar model of working, possibly with small clusters of schools pooling their financial resources to fund a shared TA for speech and language.

See above


Sustaining and replicating your practice

Helping others to replicate your practice

Evaluation and outcomes
An internal evaluation was carried out in February/March 2009. This identified the following:

Actual and measurable improvements
Quantitative data collated showed evidence of children’s:
• improved listening skills and ability to follow instructions.
• increased receptive, expressive and positional vocabulary.
• improved narrative skills.
• progress in the attainment of the Early Years Foundation Stage Early Learning Goals.

Qualitative data collated from questionnaires and feedback indicate that:

• The perspective of children, young people and their families
Parents were unequivocally supportive of the project and recognised the positive impact of the support the children had received. Qualitative data collated from parents’ questionnaires indicated that they had observed improvements in many areas, such as children’s speech sound production, expressive language, speech clarity, listening skills, vocabulary, turn-taking and interaction, willingness to communicate, phonic knowledge, increased confidence, and progress in overall language development. Parents felt that the intervention was effective in meeting children’s needs and some felt it preferable to attending clinic appointments. They also commented on how their children enjoyed the intervention sessions.

• The perspective of managers, practitioners and service providers
Feedback from Speech and Language Therapists indicated that they felt the project was an effective means of bridging the gap between individual therapy and the classroom environment. They felt that it had helped to increase teachers’ awareness of how schools can meet the needs of children with SLCN and the importance of collaborative working. The provision of support within school was felt to be preferable to children missing school to attend clinic appointments.

• The perspective of teachers
Feedback from teachers indicated that children had become more confident and better equipped to learn; their improved speech and language skills had led to more active classroom participation; and they were able to generalise these improved skills to the classroom context, providing positive role models for their peers. Teachers also noted that intervention sessions were of a high standard and children were keen to take part, and highlighted a need for the intervention to continue.

‘Hot tips’ and learning points

• Ensure that the TA has sufficient time to meet with parents, teachers and other professionals; to prepare activities and resources; to complete assessments and maintain accurate records; and for travel (if appropriate) in addition to running the interventions.
• Provide regular (peer) support (and observations) for the specialist TA, for example from a Speech and Language Therapist, Educational Psychologist or professionals with similar roles.
• Ensure that school staff have realistic expectations of the number of children who can be supported through the project.
• Key elements to have in place are funding; a competent TA who is able to work independently and on his or her own initiative; headteachers who are committed to the principles of early intervention and collaborative working; and, ideally, an allocation of time from a Speech and Language Therapist who can offer regular support to the TA.
• At a time when Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), Local Authorities (LAs) and schools are being placed under increasing financial pressure, this model of working appears to be an efficient use of resources. Other LAs would be able to implement a similar project quite easily; it could be implemented most viably through a small number of schools pooling some of their resources to fund a shared TA.
• There is a need to improve the identification of those children who could benefit from intervention, to ensure that those with less easily identifiable difficulties are also included.
• Although the communication between the specialist TA and the class teachers and parents was a strength of the project, it could be further improved by increasing opportunities for parents and teachers to observe sessions with children and by providing designated time for liaison with staff.

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