NHS Speech and language therapists (SLTs) are able to provide little or no support in schools, and increasingly adopt a consultative model – a term which covers a wide range of working practices but essentially means that SLTs delegate their work to others – primarily school staff. This is usually in the form of a programme of work sent to school with little or no explanation or opportunity to collaborate.
Our own personal experience working in schools receiving this kind of service is that it is deeply unsatisfactory on all sides. Even more worryingly, the study found that newly qualified therapists reported delegating programmes which they had no experience of delivering themselves.
We know that children receiving support from TAs with experience and additional skills made gains. The need for the TA to receive the training and support in the first place therefore, is of paramount importance.
About the research
The study was conducted in one geographical area where there was a ‘2-tier’ NHS service: a core offer is available to everyone and schools then have the option of topping this up by purchasing more from a ‘traded or enhanced’ NHS service. This model is now widely replicated in many parts of the country. Increasingly however, the ‘top-up’ is available from a variety of different suppliers – not just an NHS traded service.
The researchers asked schools why they wanted additional input. Staff in Soundswell schools will recognise common themes.
Positive results from commissioning a service
Things which schools identified as being important
Overall summary of findings
SENCos reported many positive aspects of the commissioned model, including better communication with SLTs and improved outcomes for children. They also felt that the numbers of children with SLCN had reduced following commissioned input. Very few disadvantages of the model were identified.
SLTs delivered a range of activities, including training staff and providing direct input for children. This was deemed to be particularly important for ‘speech’ children.
SENCos would recommend the service, and perceived the cost to be ‘moderate’ (no figures were identified as part of the study).
All of these things suggest that SLT in schools is of value and welcome the opportunity to purchase additional input.
If you would like to read about this research in detail (including the methodology and statistics) it was published in:
Child Language Teaching and Therapy
© The Author(s) 2018
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A school-commissioned model of speech and language therapy
Sarah White: Leeds Beckett University, UK; Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, UK
Sarah Spencer: University of Sheffield, UK