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Pupil partners help finish...

Fiona Joyce, a reception teacher in Coventry, asks pupils if they know what sentences begin with. Her class at Sir Frank Whittle school immediately start talking, but not to her. First they turn to one of their classmates and discuss capital letters.

The Talking Partners scheme is one way staff at the 239-pupil school help youngsters practice their speaking and listening skills.

Paul Cheesman, head, said: "A lot of children have very poor speech when they come into school - they don't form complete sentences."

More than 90 per cent of pupils at the school are native English speakers, and Mr Cheesman says about half will have poor communication skills. He said: "There may not be a lot of interaction at home, mums and dads may use mostly instructions, such as telling children what they're having for tea.

"We want children to recognise that their interaction is valued. They are encouraged to speak up, rather than sit and let things happen."

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