UCL Institute of Education collaboration brings new innovation for CPET schools on language learning
Four Cambridge Primary Education Trust (CPET) schools have been involved in new learning on Supporting Spoken Language in the Classroom (SSLiC) following a successful Knowledge Exchange Programme with UCL Institute of Education.
The project, funded by Research England’s Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), saw Hatton Park, Histon and Impington Park, Somersham and Trumpington Park primary schools and UCL academics “exchange ideas, evidence and expertise” through the established SSLiC programme that aims to improve communication and learning outcomes for all children.
Over a four-month period, and with the support of SSLiC facilitator Dr Roberto Filippi, CPET participants identified changes they considered relevant for their settings. Self-assessment audits, and the use of a Communication Supporting Classroom Observation Tool to pinpoint strengths and areas for development, led to action plans around the language learning environment, opportunities and interactions.
“There is a growing evidence base in the area of speech, language and communication needs, but there still major gaps in our understanding of how to apply this in practice in schools and the best ways to support practitioners to embed communication in their school’s policy and practice,” explained Dr Filippi, Associate Professor in Psychology and Director of the Multilanguage and Cognition Lab at UCL Institute of Education. “If we wish to see greater improvements in outcomes for all children starting in school and beyond, it is critical that we come together to investigate how the existing evidence base related to communication and oral language can be applied to settings and then how this collective knowledge might be used to inform the wider community of ‘what works’ in schools for children. The CPET schools’ commitment in collaborating with us was key to the success of this project and, on behalf of the SSLiC team, I would like thank all the staff who contributed their energy to the case studies summarised below and detailed in our final report.”
Hatton Park Primary School
Working more collaboratively with parents/carers to foster their involvement in promoting language opportunities, supported by resources made available to families, was the primary area of focus. A survey demonstrated that parents/carers wanted information and guidance on effective strategies to use at home with their children to build opportunities for language learning. Greater active collaboration and partnerships with parents were to be the focus of the School’s action plans. In response, the School now provides weekly activities for parents/carers to undertake at home with their children. A bank of learning resources has been developed to give families access to a range of creative, engaging activities that promote spoken interactions between parents and children. A new area has been created on the School’s website, Supporting Language at Home.
Histon and Impington Park Primary School
The main priority for change was to support all staff in developing effective communication strategies with children, with focus on the use of open-ended questions, modelling new language and quality interactions. The School felt it was important to ensure that all adults are confident in knowing how to support children’s communication and language within the context of a reception classroom. Development in language leadership and staff professional development, especially for teaching assistants (TAs), were identified. A TA training programme was created consisting of six sessions centred on developing a particular effective communication and language skills strategy, as well as the opportunity to share and reflect on their observations and interactions with a ‘focus child’.
Somersham Primary School
A whole-school approach to improving language and vocabulary saw the appointment of Language Leaders to support the leadership team. A Philosophy of Language Learning was created and shared with staff to ensure collective understanding and commitment to embedding the philosophy in practice. Staff were supported in operationalising these aims through examples of good practice that the leadership team and Language Leaders should see during learning walks and classroom observations. The leadership team felt the inconsistencies in language learning was related to knowledge and understanding of good practice, but also (as confirmed by a staff questionnaire) to levels of staff confidence in developing children’s language. This highlighted the need for support from the Language Leaders and ongoing monitoring of staff confidence.
Trumpington Park Primary School
Similar to Hatton Park, helping parents/carers to better understand language learning strategies in early years, and raising the importance of providing language learning opportunities at home, was the primary focus. A questionnaire found the majority of parents/carers were aware of the issues related to challenges of poor language development, especially if they knew that their children fell behind the age-related learning stage, but did not know how to encourage, support and enhance their child’s development. Dedicated workshops to raise awareness and provide them with more support were welcomed, and the School is putting in place a new bank of resources (e.g. games/books) that can be used by parents at home to support all pupils’ language development.
CPET CEO/Executive Principal Lesley Birch added: “Although this has been a relatively short project, we have already seen some excellent outcomes. For example, the TA training programme led to constructive feedback and collaborative interaction, as well as observations on the impact on children’s learning. There is also evidence of higher levels of confidence among parents/carers in how to support children with language learning at home with parents now beginning to engage more fully in partnerships. Elsewhere, there is greater staff awareness of how to create stimulating language-rich classroom environments. To have the ability to partner with UCL Institute of Education is a wonderful professional development opportunity for our staff, and for our schools’ development.”
UCL Institute of Education, in collaboration with CPET and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Teaching School Hub, has now launched a ‘Bridging Educational Sciences with Practice in Education’ online seminar series. To register your interest in these free events, and for more information, please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bridging-educational-sciences-with-practice-in-education-tickets-169625282787.