Empty talk over special needs

The Commons education select committee has highlighted the urgent need for a clear over-arching strategy for special educational needs and and disability policy.

I CAN is a charity that helps children communicate. While we endorse the committee's proposals for a national strategy, our priority is action.

Communication problems affect a wide variety of children - I CAN has strong evidence to demonstrate that improving things for children with speech and language impairments improves the communication skills of all children.

However, recommendations like these have been made many times before. I CAN will not be satisfied until we see government action that brings real change. It is unacceptable that children with severe communication difficulties still face a postcode lottery in getting effective early support.

We are concerned that children are arriving in school with impoverished language skills. Two-thirds of teachers and primary heads believe half of children entering school do not have the communication skills for an effective start to learning.

I CAN is working in more than 40 partnerships with education authorities and Primary Care Trusts on its Early Talk programme that supports the communication development of pre-school children and trains the professionals working with them.

It acts as a catalyst between the NHS and education services to help children and families, with a special focus on children with severe communication disabilities. I CAN hopes to use its expertise to support the children's centre programme in England.

Virginia Beardshaw

I CAN chief executive

4 Dyer's Building

Holborn, London

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