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I CAN's Early Talk Programme:


Independent evaluation of the impact of Early Talk on addressing speech, communication & language needs in Sure Start Children's Centre settings

Dr Judy Whitmarsh, Dr Michael Jopling, Prof Mark Hadfield

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Recommendations

It should be emphasised that although the report, its findings and recommendations are necessarily bounded by the approach taken to the evaluation and the evidence collected, efforts have been made to contextualise the findings in light of the change of government since the research was commissioned and reflect the shift from central provision towards more localised services and partnerships.

  • There is evidence that ET is an effective precursor to programmes such as ECaT. ET validated existing good practice and functioned as an effective baseline for developing practitioner skills in SLC before engaging in what was regarded as extended SLC development through initiatives such as ECaT or more advanced levels of ET. Commissioners of services, local communities and settings such as children's centres need to consider how they might harness support strategically to align programmes like ET with other initiatives so that centres receive appropriate levels of support and/or challenge and can develop a longer term programme of continuing professional development (CPD) and organisational improvement around SLC.
  • The delivery of programmes such as ET needs to consider the existing level of SLC expertise in centres and their local communities when determining the degree of support offered. This may require I Can and others to take a more proactive approach to helping communities identify existing expertise, for example in the provision of external mentoring, to ensure that support is cost- effective and appropriate.
  • Effective mentoring needs to offer mentees CPD and better understanding of change management processes within SLC provision.
  • Programmes such as ET need to place greater emphasis on settings working with parents and carers so that parents and carers better understand how settings approach SLCN and can use that knowledge to support their children's SLC development.
  • Progression and alignment between SLC initiatives could be enhanced if ET used evaluative frameworks from other initiatives, such as ECaT's child monitoring systems, to support settings in monitoring and evaluating outcomes for children.
  • Programmes such as ET need to balance the potential disadvantages for children with EAL by placing more emphasis on valuing bilingualism and its potential for enhancing SLC in children's centres.