Bercow: Ten Years On sets out the state of provision for children’s speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) in England in 2018.

Five key themes emerged from the review. The evidence showed:

1)  Communication is crucial to children’s life chances. Yet awareness of its importance among the public and decision makers is still not high enough.

Our evidence found a lack of awareness and information about speech, language and communication in general and more specifically about SLCN.

More than three quarters of parents and carers said information about SLCN was either not easily available or not available at all

2)  Strategic system-wide approaches to supporting SLCN are rare; very often SLCN does not feature in national or local policies.

95% of survey respondents felt that central Government’s contribution to raising standards and improving outcomes for children and young people with SLCN is either not clear or in need of strengthening.

53% of survey respondents did not feel that the way children learn in schools supports their spoken language development.

3)  Services that are inaccessible and inequitable. Too often support for children’s SLCN is planned and funded based on the available resources, rather than what is needed, leading to an unacceptable level of variation across the country. 

Almost 40% of survey respondents felt that commissioners’ understanding of speech, language and communication required significant improvement.

Only 15% of people said that speech and language therapy was available in their area as required.

4)  Support that makes a difference is based on the evidence of what works. However, service design and cuts frequently do not take account of the evidence we have. 

Only 15% of survey respondents felt that data was regularly collected and shared

The vast majority of NHS speech and language therapy services said their commissioner measured the performance of their service on outputs – such as the number of children seen – compared with around a third who were measured on the impact of their service.

5)  Too many children with SLCN are being missed, and are not getting the vital support they need.

48% of people thought the expertise of school and early years staff to identify and support children and young people’s speech, language and communication was good or excellent

Yet half of parents said their child’s needs were not picked up early enough.

Just 12% of parents surveyed said their child’s difficulties were identified a professional.