Advice on tap

3rd March 2006 at 00:00
John Galloway describes the development of a website to help teachers of children with speech and language difficulties

The new children's agenda set out in Every Child Matters has meant that professionals from different agencies are now working closer together to provide improved, co-ordinated services for children.

This is a welcome development but not an unproblematic one, because practitioners often work with frameworks and use language specific to their field. It was, in part, an attempt to overcome these difficulties that led to the Targets and Activities Project (TAP) and the development of a new website.

The project started in the London borough of Tower Hamlets when a specialist speech and language therapist and a specialist teacher found themselves working together, on this occasion to un-jam a photocopier. One admired the other's mangled worksheet which led to them pooling their resources and recognising that there was a lot of duplication in their work.

The teacher, Janeta Guarnieri, says: "We were both dealing with similar pupils and we got talking about how the programmes we gave were always the same and how once the programme had been done schools were unable to move on."

She and Lorna Lloyd, the therapist, realised that the work they left behind in schools following their visits was not always sufficient to keep the staff going until the next time.

Janeta says: "Once the task was finished they might do something completely inappropriate, something way, way above the child's developmental level.

They were differentiating down from what an average child can do rather than up from what this child can do."

This is largely because very early language development is not something school staff, particularly teaching assistants, have been trained in. What was needed was to use a developmental framework the teachers would understand.

Lorna explains: "We had the idea of using the P levels to structure speech and language therapy targets so that they were written in teacher friendly language."

Having avoided duplication and found a format that professionals could relate to, the next step was to find a way to make these materials easily available. The internet was the obvious method, but any website created would have to be sensitive to the aims of the project, so another member of the team, Neil Thompson, a therapist working with children with complex needs, decided to build it himself, sponsored by Canary Wharf Group, the Docklands business conglomerate. The result is an easy-to-navigate site where activities can be found for English, maths, science, and PSHE, as well as for phonology and articulation, all ordered by national curriculum andP levels, with up to four activities on each of the 150 downloadable sheets.

In maths, for instance, pupils might be working at P5 and have to "Match two equal sets," or "Use the terms 'one' or 'lots'." The really clever bit, though, is that other professionals can easily add their own resources to the project.A template is provided to retain a common format, but the intention is to develop a dynamic resource, for anyone, anywhere, working with children with speech and language difficulties and help them share the necessary tools to do the job. The site is launched on March 14.

John Galloway is advisory teacher for special needs and ICT for Tower Hamlets Targets and Activities Project

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