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The Communication Trust

Free Resource: Universally Speaking – Ages and stages of children’s communication development

Universally Speaking is a series of free booklets for anyone who works with children and young people. They can help you to find out whether the children you work with are on the right track, what helps them learn to talk and listen and what to do if you have concerns about any of their communication skills.

Universally Speaking Birth to 5 sets out the ages and stages of children’s communication development for this age group and so is especially relevant for early years practitioners.

It can be particularly useful to help you:

  • Spot children who are struggling, and includes ideas of things you can do to help develop their skills
  • Undertake the 2 year progress check
  • Share information with parents

To download this free resource go to

Background Information:

The Communication Trust is a coalition of nearly 50 voluntary and community organisations with expertise in speech, language and communication.  We harness our collective expertise to support the children’s workforce and commissioners to meet the speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) of all children and young people, particularly those with SLCN.

Family action

The work Family Action is doing aims to increase the amount of school-based full-year wraparound childcare in England.

The Department for Education has contracted the charity Family Action to offer selected schools in England free, bespoke support, over two years, in London and in the North West of England.  The bespoke support will help these schools to develop full-year wraparound childcare (for children aged 8 to 14, between 8am and 6pm, 50 weeks a year).

Schools taking part will be guided through every step of their individual journeys towards developing or commissioning their wraparound childcare provision, which will be ready for delivery by April 2014. Family Action will then closely support the schools during the first year of their provision, monitoring how the childcare offer is working, and helping to ensure its sustainability beyond April 2015.

The information and good practice gathered during the programme will be shared with all schools in England through Family Action’s interactive website, the Learning Exchange

Why focus on the 8 to 14 age group?

To understand how important it is for more schools to offer wraparound childcare, just try asking any working parent how they manage to find a safe place for their children to be outside school hours and during the holidays.  You’ll find you’ve touched on a sore point if affordable full-year wraparound childcare is in short supply where they live.

While there are many types of childcare available for children aged 0 to 5, provision for 8 to 14 year olds is far less plentiful.  The gap in full-year wraparound provision for this age group has been identified by The Family and Childcare Trust (formerly Daycare Trust) in its ‘Annual Childcare Costs Survey 2013’. Also, the high cost of holiday childcare means that many children are destined to spend their holidays at home, bored and unsupervised.  The Family and Childcare Trusts’ recent holiday costs survey revealed that only 30 per cent of local authorities provide enough holiday childcare for working families.

Many parents are thus forced to depend on informal networks for wraparound childcare.  Great, if you have friends who aren’t in paid employment, grandparents, or lovely aunties nearby.  Sometimes though, even family members aren’t available, so finding affordable childcare from 8am to 6pm, or even a bit later, as well as during all the school holidays (apart from Christmas) can be nothing short of a juggling nightmare.

Sometimes, in desperation, parents even move their children out of schools where they are already settled and happy in order to find one nearer their workplaces.  The hope is that another school will either provide the needed wraparound childcare on their premises, or is located near enough to an independent centre offering childcare.  And always, the question is: how much does it cost?

Add to this gritty logistical mix the fact that there is never a guarantee that a place will be available at another school.  Result: a lot of stressful, draining bother, which becomes a monumental stumbling block to finding full-time work – or even to holding down a job when you have one.

Can schools step up to the plate?

Offering successful wraparound childcare takes planning, staff, resources and energy, and, to many schools, the very idea of undertaking and sustaining it seems too burdensome.  But, there are effective ways they can do so.

Where affordable wraparound childcare is being offered by schools, it works well.  For example, some schools have constituted their provision under community interest organisation (CIO) or charity status. Their provision runs along business lines, and any profits generated help sustain and keep it affordable and flexible for parents.  Also, being constituted separately from the school allows this type of school-based wraparound childcare provider to more easily apply for voluntary sector grants to maintain their offer.

Other schools have commissioned Ofsted-registered wraparound childcare providers to run the childcare service on their premises.  This works well too.  Some schools work either singly or in clusters to offer parents the wraparound childcare they need, deploying their own staff to run the provision.

Everyone wins

Successful wraparound childcare lifts a great load off parents’ shoulders.  It keeps their children safe – and 8 to 14 year olds need to be in a safe place after school until their parents come to collect them.

Also, a good wraparound childcare offer definitely raises the appeal to parents of any school.  As Angela Shires, manager of wraparound childcare at Kent’s Ashford Primary School says, ‘Parents really, really need the type of wraparound care we are offering when they are working, and often, they are faced with the choice of not being able to work at all – or having to pay us for it.  There are only about two or three schools in Ashford that offer wraparound childcare in the same way that we do and I think that’s why we’re so busy here.’

Also, as Carol Moloney of Buxton School in East London can testify, when schools offer this type of service to parents, people who live nearby start to see the school as central to their community – and the beneficial impact on pupils is there to see.  ‘We are open to local families – targeting those who live in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, but we welcome those from other boroughs – with a strategic view that it will increase our roll.  The provision is having a positive impact on staff as well as pupils.  For example, one teacher said: “I really get what you do now.  This pupil is so confident now; it’s changed everything for her life!”’

Many schools across England have, indeed, risen to the challenge and do offer full-year, wraparound childcare.  But, there are still too few doing so – especially for parents with older children.  Family Action hopes that, by the end of its contract with the Department for Education, more schools will consider it feasible to start doing so.

This project is being run under the Department for Education’s National Prospectus Grant Programme (NP1) for the period April 2013 to March 2015.


Early Support

Early Support’s School Years Developmental Journal is now available.

The Journal helps families, teachers and other practitioners working with them to celebrate, record and support children and young people’s development and to identify areas where extra help may be needed.  It is for anyone wishing to better understand, follow and support a child or young person’s development beyond the early years, as well as the specific use for disabled children and young people and those with additional needs.  It is designed to support a key working approach and foster communication among all those involved in a child or young person’s development.

While the Journal’s primary use is for families, it is also intended as a useful resource for teachers and other practitioners.  The Developmental Steps in the Journal correspond to the National Curriculum levels and there is guidance on using the Journal in school settings.

The Journal has been developed by a team of specialists in child and youth development and childhood disability and special needs, led by John Oates, with Silvana Mengoni, of the Child and Youth Studies Group in the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology at The Open University, Milton Keynes.  For further information please email: [email protected]  or  [email protected]

The Journal is available as a free pdf download from the Early Support website:

The School Years Developmental Journal is designed to help parents, young people, teachers and other practitioners record, celebrate and support learning and development.  It also helps everyone to share information, supporting a key working approach.  The Journal is particularly useful if a child or young person has an additional need or disability.  The School Years Developmental Journal follows on from the Early Years Developmental Journal and includes behaviours that most typically developing children and young people show during their time at school and beyond, i.e. from when they are aged five to 18 years and above.

Care to Learn

Care to Learn funding pays for childcare of teenage parents in education or training.

For parents studying and aged under 20, Care to Learn can help pay for your childcare costs while you’re learning.

This can include courses in schools and 6th form colleges and you can get up to £160 per child per week if you live outside London or £175 per child per week if you live in London.

Call the Learner Support helpline on 0800 121 8989, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm to get an application pack.

Care to Learn can help with the cost of:

  • childcare, including deposit and registration fees
  • a childcare ‘taster’ session (up to 5 days)
  • keeping your childcare place over the summer holidays
  • taking your child to the childcare provider

For more info visit:

Centre Forum: “Five to Thrive” early years conference, videos and report

The conference took place in May and was a follow up to the CentreForum report ‘Parenting matters: early years and social mobility’.

Building on the early intervention work by Graham Allen MP and others, the report called for a campaign using the ‘five-a-day’ structure to convey simple but crucial messages to parents that aid early child development.

Taking up this idea, Hertfordshire County Council and Kate Cairns Associates developed the ‘Five to Thrive’ early intervention initiative, providing structured training for staff in children’s and health services, as well as accessible materials for parents.

This conference was an opportunity for local authority and health trust strategists and practitioners to see this work put into practice in Hertfordshire, Hull and Haringey.

All the videos are available on the CentreForum Youtube Channel.


                     graham allen2

Graham Allen MP Early Intervention Foundation

Opening the conference, Graham Allen pointed out that successful early intervention is fundamentally about the blending of politics, science, advice and advocacy.

Society should be aiming to provide a social and emotional bedrock for every baby, child and young person.  There are too many children whose life chances are affected by an intergenerational cycle of dysfunction.  Without strong social and emotional capabilities, life will always be a struggle.

Early intervention, however, is the antithesis of the “nanny state”.  It is about giving people the ability ‘to fly on their own’.  After spending 25 years as the MP for Nottingham North, the lack of social mobility has become all too clear.  Fundamental interventions at an early age in a child’s life are needed in order to halt the lack of intergenerational social mobility.

This is not a party political point, either.  It will save the country money!  Our late intervention culture is costing the country millions of pounds needlessly.  It is not good enough for one party to seize upon this idea as their own, if that happens we are dead in the water – we must all work together in this.

Since delivering two reports to government on the issue of early years intervention, the Early Years Foundation, an independent organisation, has been set up which seeks to bring about this cultural change.  This isn’t something that will be achieved by one foundation; it takes all of us working together.

Chris Paterson
Senior researcher, CentreForum

5 to thrive conference

Policy makers now seem to understand the ‘why’ on early years intervention, yet they are still lacking the ‘how’.  That is where an organisation such as the Early Years Foundation, which Graham Allen MP has helped to set up, is doing vital work.  Policy-makers can appear a little uncomfortable with the idea of going into early years initiatives.  However, the evidence of their importance is striking.

The Nobel Prize winner Professor James Heckman has shown how gaps in skills between more and less affluent children are already clear at an early stage in a child’s development, and only become wider.  Moreover, the neuroscience is clear.  For example, within the first four years a child from a professional background hears almost three times as many words as a child from the poorest background.  When skills, such as language and vocabulary, are so important to later success, it is clear how these different starts could impact on a child’s development.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Social Mobility agreed with us that the area of greatest leverage is the 0-3 years group, and thus we were tasked with coming up with an effective way of communicating simple messages, skills and information to all parents as a way of addressing these imbalances.  We came up with the idea of using the already established ‘5 a day’ message as a vehicle to convey key messages on child development, and it is, therefore, a great pleasure to see its detailed development and implementation by Kate Cairns Associates, Hertfordshire, Haringey and Hull City Councils, which has lifted it from the pages of a report and turned it into a policy which is acting to aid social mobility.


The second half of the conference was taken by a range of practitioners working in the health and CSF fields who explained how they were applying the ideas raised in the first section into their early years programmes.

Firstly Kate Cairns explained how she had taken the research and come up with practical applications, then Hertfordshire County Council, Hull City Health Care Partnership and the London Borough of Haringey.

Video’s of these presentations are available below.

5tothrive 1 5tothrive 2 5tothrive 3 5tothrive 4

Boogie Mites

Research Begins on Early Years Music and Development

One of the UK’s leading providers of Early Years music resources, Boogie Mites, has launched a study with educational research specialists at the University of Chichester.

The research project will assess the impact music has on language and communication, as well as the physical, social and emotional development of children at elevated risk of developmental delay.

A variety of music programmes created by Boogie Mites and offered by trained practitioners in parent classes or through nurseries and infant schools, is widely recognised as valuable resources to support pre-literacy skills and promote physical and emotional development.  The analysis will also evaluate practitioner perceptions following training sessions by Boogie Mites and key stakeholders views on the Parent Education Music Programmes.

‘There is a growing body of evidence which supports the positive benefits of music with young children’s development, which include improved language development and phonemic awareness,’ explains Nikki Fairchild, EYPS Programme Coordinator and leader of the research at the University of Chichester.  Although music has a place in the ‘expressive arts and design’ section of the recently revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) (DfE 2012) curriculum we will investigate the holistic benefits music can provide across all prime areas of learning.’

‘This is a very exciting project for Boogie Mites and we are grateful for the support from the charities Action for Children and 4Children, as well as Hampshire Family Learning,’ says Sue Newman, Director of Boogie Mites. ‘We have masses of anecdotal evidence from parents, teachers and educational professions, but to be the subject of academic research and scrutiny is a major step forward. We can’t wait to read the results.’


I CAN Chatterbox Challenge

I CAN, the children’s communication charity, have launched the 13th annual singalong for children under 5, Chatterbox Challenge.  With sponsorship from Openreach and TTS and the support of Humf from the popular children’s TV show, I CAN are calling on parents and carers to encourage their child’s early years setting to register.

This year’s theme Chatterbox Challenge: Sounds like fun with Humf develops the communication skills of the under 5s through learning and performing songs and rhymes based on sounds, noises and even silence and all activities are linked to the EYFS.

Chatterbox Challenge Week, when the majority of events will be held, is 10-16th February 2014.  Early years groups are encouraged to register now at to receive their free fundraising pack.  The activities in the pack are linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and will develop a range of skills including attention and listening, one of the early learning goals.

Chatterbox Challenge: Sounds like fun with Humf develops the communication skills of the under 5s through songs and rhymes based on sounds, noises and even silence to highlight the difficulties faced by 1.2 million children in the UK with their speech, language and communication.  Children are sponsored to perform in front of families and carers and, thanks to the support of Openreach and TTS, the funds raised will enable I CAN to help more children who struggle to communicate and express themselves.

Virginia Beardshaw, I CAN Chief Executive said, “The Chatterbox Challenge is a firm favourite in the early years calendar, when children under 5 learn nursery rhymes and take part in activities aimed at making them confident communicators.  The vital funds raised help I CAN in our work to support more of the 1.2 million children in the UK who have communication difficulties.  We hope hundreds of groups will register online and save Chatterbox Challenge Week in their diaries so they can take part in this fun event.”

Liv Garfield, Chief Executive, Openreach, said, “Communication is at the heart of the Openreach business and we know how important it is for children to develop good communication skills to succeed in life.  This is our seventh year sponsoring I CAN’s Chatterbox Challenge as part of our ‘First Mile’ programme.  The Chatterbox Challenge is an engaging way for young children to develop their communication skills whilst helping raise vital funds for children who struggle with speaking and understanding.”

Catherine Jeffrey, Deputy MD, TTS Group Ltd said, “TTS are focused on providing quality, educational resources to early years settings.  With children at the centre of everything we do, it is great to be involved with I CAN and the Chatterbox Challenge – helping children across the UK to develop their communication skills.  With TTS vouchers and a nursery kit out to be won, we hope many early years groups will register and fundraise for a chance to win.”

Chatterbox Challenge: Sounds like fun with Humf activities have been written by I CAN speech and language therapists and teachers and activities are linked to the EYFS prime areas Communication and Language and Personal, Social and Emotional Development.  The Challenge activities can be used with all children, including those with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).  Speech, language and communication are crucial for reading, learning in school, for socialising and making friends, and for understanding and expressing emotions or feelings.  1.2 million children in the UK have long-term difficulties with their speech, language and communication and will need extra support.

Chatterbox Challenge: Sounds like fun with Humf week is 10-16th February 2014 but groups can also hold their Challenge at any time convenient to them.

Background information:

I CAN is the children’s communication charity or  We are here to ensure that no child is left out or left behind because of a difficulty speaking or understanding.  I CAN’s mission is to make sure that everyone in contact with children knows how important communication is, what a communication difficulty looks like and what they can do to help.  At the very heart of I CAN are our special schools which give expert care and education to children with problems so severe their needs cannot be met elsewhere.

With communication at the heart of its business, Openreach is passionate about I CAN’s work, and recognises how critical good communication skills are to every young child as they embark on life’s journey.  Learn more about Openreach at

Humf is a pre-school animated series co-produced by Entertainment One and award-winning animation studio King Rollo Films.  Broadcast in the UK on Nick Jr. every day, Humf follows the adventures of a cute, furry 3 year old creature who is learning to explore the world around him.

TTS is home to innovative, educational resources.  We spend our lives talking to teachers, parents, early years professionals and many others, whose number one priority is the same as our own – children.  The result is exceptional resources that will meet your needs and do what they promise – or your money back!

The Essential Baby Care Guide

Free Offer of the Complete Guide on App to all Health VisitorsBaby Care Guide Robert Winston

The Essential Baby Care Guide is four DVDs (fully subtitled in Urdu, Arabic and simple English) or Apps, each narrated by Professor Robert Winston and featuring leading experts talking about:
•    Feeding
•    Care and development
•    Sleeping
•    First aid and accident prevention

Each section is thoroughly researched, follows Dept. of Health Guidelines, includes only evidence-based work and follows expert advice from:

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative

St John Ambulance

The Child Accident Prevention Trust

The Meningitis Research Foundation

The National Literacy Trust

Consultant Paediatricians, Midwives and more.

The Essential Baby Care Guide is being used extensively by expectant and new parents, but also by Health Care professionals in Children’s Centres up and down the UK.  Health Visitors are finding the App especially useful, since they can have the resources from the Guide at their fingertips on visits.

We are offering the full 8 hour content of the Guide to HVs for free.  Please email [email protected] if you are interested in taking us up on this offer.  There is a simple download code involved.

If you want to look at the resources first, you can download 5 free clips from (for iPhones and iPads) – (for android phones) and (for Kindle Fire).  You can also view clips on our website –

The complete guide DVD set usually costs £29.99 (John Lewis/ but we offer a very large discount (as low as £18) for Children’s Centres and Early Years groups. Please email Diana Hill on [email protected]



Sightlines conference – ‘Developing Environments of Enquiry in Early Childhood Education’

Sightlines Initiative Conference:  Saturday 30th November 2013;  10am – 4pm;  University of London

We are born sociable, inquisitive, imaginative, and expressive learners, desiring connection with the world around us.  The speakers will present compelling accounts of creative work from Reggio Emilia and the UK which puts this conviction into everyday practice.

Everybody knows that fine words don’t always transfer into children’s lives.  It’s very difficult to turn beliefs, values and aspirations into practice.  We all know there’s a gap between what we want to do and what actually happens.  This day is for everybody who wants to bridge that gap, to encourage and to continue to build an education fit for children.  It will be a focal point for connecting with activity in the ReFocus Network.  It will also be an ideal preparation opportunity for those of you planning to attend the 2014 Reggio International Study Week, or engaged in a Sightlines’ Developing Environments of Enquiry programme.

Click Here for Booking Form.  Places are limited and will be on a first-come-first-served basis.

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