Five coastal schools get speech therapist in pilot scheme

A HEADTEACHER has been given £100,000 to share an in-house speech and language therapist across five primary schools on the Yorkshire coast.

Matt Parsons from Sirius Minerals (back left); with Scalby school pupils left to right Joe Huntley, Abdul Hameed Firfirey, Eleanor Davidson, Rowan Hawes (with bucket), Margherita Puccinelli and Ruby Hilton; North Yorkshire County Council prevention. (front left), Vicki Logan headteacher of Overdale Primary School (front right) and Paul Offord, Scarboroughs lead practitioner for English (far right).

Vicki Logan is headteacher of Overdale Primary School in Eastfield, one of Scarborough’s poorest areas.

She says children are increasingly starting school with limited speech or significant language difficulties.

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As a result the school was in urgent need of input from speech and language therapists but found it difficult to get referrals.

Mrs Logan went to North Yorkshire County Council with a plan to secure an in-house speech and language therapist through the Scarborough Pledge funding.

As a result of this bid she has been given £100,000 over the next two years to share a therapist with four other primary schools – Braeburn; Wheatcroft; Hunmanby and Cayton.

From this term the therapist will spend one day a week in each school working with specific children; will develop the skills of school staff in speech and language therapy and work with parents and carers to support their children.

Mrs Logan said: “This means that high quality speech and language provision is embedded in the five pilot schools. It means we do not lose vital time with children’s speech and language early development so these difficulties do not become ingrained and impact on learning in later life.

“It also means we can give professional development in speech and language therapy for staff to support children on a daily basis.

“The therapist can also give regular help to parents to build confidence to support their children in the right way.” Mrs Logan has researched evidence about the long-term impact of early speech and language problems in children and is a passionate about the need for early intervention.

She said: “Early speech, language and communication difficulties in children are a significant predictor of later literacy difficulties. Evidence shows the majority of young people in youth offending institutions have communication problems. If there is no intervention at an early age the gap in literacy attainment widens to five years by the time children become teenagers. If we get in early we can give children a chance to realise their potential.

“If you can speak and listen well you will read, write and comprehend with higher levels of success as you move forward through school and then you can make better life choices.”

There are a series of initiatives underway as part of the Scarborough Pledge.

The new lead practitioner for English in Scarborough schools has said he wants to use the town’s geography and culture to inspire literacy projects.

English teacher Paul Offord has taken up the new role funded by the town’s pledge.

He has a range of experience teaching in coastal areas.

Before he moved to North Yorkshire he was an advanced skills teacher in Brighton for six years. But he was tempted North by this new role.

He is based in Scalby School three days a week and spends the rest of the week offering support and professional development to staff at other schools.

He said: “There is so much expertise, passion and commitment among teachers in this town and we want to build on that.

“It’s a really vibrant place, a unique and exciting place to be for teachers.

“Geographically and culturally Scarborough is very distinctive and we can draw on that in literacy projects.

“Children need to have good literacy to achieve in all subjects and there’s a huge commitment and energy here to improve outcomes.”

Students in the town have suggested it is a good place to live for teachers thinking of a move.

Scalby School pupil Rowan Hawes, 12, said: “It’s not like a massive city, it’s really easy to get to know but there’s loads of things to do here and you’ve got the sea on your doorstep,”

Fellow student, Joe Huntley, 15, also said he think it’s a good place for teachers to come.

“You can really get to know your students here in Scarborough. It’s a really friendly place.”

A Ditch the Dummy campaign has also been launched in Scarborough this term as part of the pledge to support parents to wean children off their dummies by learning five nursery rhymes and songs with them as part of a ready-for-school pack.

These packs are to be delivered by health visitors as part of the one-year visit.

“Parents can lack confidence to sing and say rhymes with their children but it’s so effective in language development” said Barbara Merrygold, children and young people’s service prevention manager.

“If they can encourage their children to take out their dummy to learn nursery rhymes and action songs with their child, it will significantly support the development of their child’s early communication and language.

The company behind a £2.2bn polyhalte mine in North Yorkshire, has backed the Scarborough Pledge.

Sirius Minerals is creating apprenticeships, providing work placements, supporting local undergraduates and is planning to contribute £750,000 over ten years to support STEM ( science, technology, engineering and maths) learning in schools.

External affairs manager Matt Parsons said: “We are planning to create over 1,000 new jobs and want to give opportunities to young people in the area. We have already seen that there’s a lot of talented young people in

Scarborough and we are committed to working with local schools to make sure they are ready for employment.

“It’s not just about helping the most gifted students, but making sure that others don’t get left behind. There are many businesses involved in the Pledge with the same mission and it’s really inspiring to be part of it.”