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Reflections on a growing team

February, 2023

It’s been an exciting few years of growth at Learning Talking and we welcome our newest team members who come with new elements of personal and professional experience. We’ve been adding to our numbers steadily and have spent time working out how to be trusting, supportive leaders to our team so they can provide the highest quality speech and language therapy in Early Years, Primary and Secondary Schools. Regular supervision, external and internal training and potluck lunches (with lots of cake) are our favs so far.

Congratulations to Lark Hall School

October, 2015

Lark Hall Primary School in Clapham, London has been highly commended for the Primary School of the Year Award at a glittering award ceremony in London, hosted by comedian, David Baddiel. The school has been highlighted for its commitment to supporting its pupils’ speech, language and communication development.


The 2015 Shine a Light Awards are a national awards scheme organised by Pearson, in partnership with The Communication Trust, to celebrate innovative work, inspirational individuals and excellent practice in supporting children and young people’s communication development.


Lark Hall Primary School has been praised for its comprehensive and hollistic approach to supporting children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and to developing these skills in all its pupils. The school has a communication policy and staff are supported with specialist training. The school funds a full-time speech and language therapist and one of its governors has specific responsibility for SLCN in the school.


Communication is also supported in practical and creative ways, such as the use of photos and symbols to underpin classroom vocabulary, playground rules and signs around the school. The teacher’s day is arranged to increase the numbers of teaching staff present during playtimes so that teachers can support language and social communication in the playground and ensure that children with communication needs can be included in games.


There is a school shop run by the children, which gives them valuable opportunities to develop communication skills by ‘working’ in the shop and purchasing items. The whole-school approach to communication is maximising the learning of all pupils across the curriculum and the children recieving speech and language therapy in the school have made significant progress, with 90% of them achieving their targets each term.


There has also been a positive impact on behaviour in the school, with greater understanding among the staff about the impact of SLCN on behaviour and how this can be best addressed.


Learning Talking’s Cat Andrew, who is based at Lark Hall Primary School said: “we are very proud of this award. It is a testament to the commitment of the school to supporting children with speech, language and communitcation needs and creating an inclusive environment where all children are able to achieve their potential.”


David Baddiel, Host of the 2015 Shine a Light Awards, said: “Because of the important work that the Shine a Light 2015 winners and highly commended finalists have achieved, children and young people’s language and communication development, especially for those with SLCN, has been supported.


“Speech and language problems too often go under the radar, so everyone should not only be congratulated for their work but for bringing this important issue to the attention of others. I would like to say well done to all those shortlisted who have shown true grit and determination to better themselves and others. They are all a true inspiration – keep up the good work.”


Chris Hall, Director of Clinical Assessment at Pearson, says: “Congratulations to Lark Hall Primary School for being highly commended for the Primary School of the Year Award at the 2015 Shine a Light Awards for their remarkable achievements. Each year the applications get stronger and more inspiring. We have seen examples of children and young people being supported by some truly inspiring individuals and schools like Lark Hall Primary School.


“The Shine a Light Awards, now in their fourth year, continue to grow and we have been delighted to welcome an incredible judging panel who represent the very best of the education and special educational needs (SEN) sector. To once again partner with the Communication Trust and celebrate these inspiring people and organisations is a real privilege.”


Anne Fox, Director of The Communication Trust, says: “Congratulations to the winners and highly commended finalists whose work will help inspire and motivate people right across the country. Lark Hall Primary School is a wonderful example of this inspiration in practice and they have shown what can be achieved with commitment and dedication.


“We’re delighted to have this partnership with Pearson, which allows Shine a Light to be a true celebration of the amazing work up and down the country and for helping the Trust to reach more children and young people and the professionals who work with them.


“The  Shine  a  Light  Awards  are  a  key  fixture  for  the  speech  and  language  sector  as  they reflect a range of best practice and innovative work taking place across the country. At a time when early years, health, education and SEN services are going through significant reforms, Shine a Light focuses attention on what can be achieved through expertise, sheer determination and never giving up on children and young people’s potential.”


The Shine a Light awards are designed to honour individuals, teams, campaigns, communication-friendly settings and communities that have excelled in their support of children and young people’s communication, particularly for those with SLCN.

Makaton User case study

September, 2015

The Communication Trust has worked with the Better Communication Research Programme to develop the What Works database of evidenced interventions to support children’s speech, language and communication. What Works is endorsed by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.  For further information please visit: www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/projects/what-works.aspx

Kathryn Jones recently submitted the following case study towards the  ‘interventions in practice’ section of the What Works site.

Case study – Using Makaton to develop a Total Communication environment

Kathryn Jones, Speech and Language Therapist (SaLT), Learning Talking Independent Practice (providing speech and language therapy to schools across London).

The setting

S was seen as part of a mainstream school caseload where the therapist was based in school 2 days per week. Intervention was indirect through 2 Learning Support Assistants (LSA), an Intervention Teacher (IT) and with some input to the Class Teacher (CT), sessions were modelled on a weekly basis. Makaton was modelled as a strategy to develop the Total Communication environment.

The SaLT had previously been on a certified 2 day Makaton training course. The client S (5 years old) was in Year 1. The SENCo requested indirect input to support small group literacy and maths lessons.

S had been diagnosed with a speech, language and communication disorder. Communication was mainly through echolalic phrases and behaviours that challenged (including spitting, swearing, hitting). S was interested in current pop stars, hair styling, dolls/babies and food, his interactions were limited to these topic areas. Previous intervention in school was an early communication group targeting attention and listening, social interactions and vocabulary.

Implementing the Makaton strategy

The SaLT and IT would work collaboratively to include Makaton into plans for literacy and maths sessions. In addition the SaLT would model at least one activity per week including Makaton. The SaLT also modelled approximately 3 functional signs to the LSA per week (e.g. finished, lunch), who incorporated these into daily routines. In modelled sessions the Salt would sign and sing e.g. Nursery rhymes, counting songs, and use signs and words to support attention and listening. Initially staff were wary of using signs, possibly due to confidence. The SaLT showed online videos, which S was highly motivated by. The SaLT would sign along with the video and S would attempt to copy, switching his attention between the video and SaLT. As staff saw this they also signed along and researched more Singing Hands materials including buying the DVDs. Singing Hands became part of the daily routine. Some staff members appeared more comfortable signing along to a video, particularly at first. As S’s spontaneous use of Makaton grew, staff began to increase their use of signing, including asking the SaLT for specific signs relating to the curriculum. Using online apps signs could be accessed instantly.

Outcomes and impact

By the end of the first term, S was participating in literacy and maths lessons using speech and sign. He was spontaneously forming speech and sign sentences about play and learning activities, and directing these to familiar adults. There was a general reduction in behaviours that challenged. Staff fed-back to to SaLT they felt Makaton supported S to access learning and achieve on the P-Levels. They took ownership of developing their own use of Makaton. Top Tips A key factor for staff uptake was the observable impact of Makaton use on S’s attention skills, behaviour and expressive language. The SaLT supported staff to identify this e.g. Pointing out increased looking when an adult was signing. The ongoing team approach to Makaton was beneficial for S and staff skill development. The use of multimedia e.g. Singing Hands and MyChoicePad app supported carryover of

Haringey school delighted with service

September, 2013

Inclusion manger reflects on Learning Talking service stating “I am really happy with the quality of the assessments and reports (verbal and written)  – timely and specific – well informed too. It has been a useful support to SEN and I am delighted with the amount of children that she has worked with in a just a few weeks”.

Head Teacher comments “money well spent.”

New therapist joins team

September, 2013

We are delighted to have Kathryn Jones joining our team this term. Kathryn will be providing speech and language therapy to a number of schools in Waltham Forest.

Free speech and language advice drop in clinic

December, 2012

Have your speech and language therapy questions answered by an experienced speech and language therapist . The first free drop in clinic will take place at St Anthony’s catholic primary in Woodford. Parents and carers with children attending the school can book appointments via the school office. This service is a great way for parents and school staff to meet the team at Learning Talking.  If this is a service that you would like to book for your setting please contact us.

New speech and language therapist joins Learning Talking

August, 2012

Learning Talking are delighted to announce that Gael Birtill is joining the team. Gael is an excellent therapist (visit the team page to see her profile). Gael will be providing speech and language therapy to children attending a number of schools in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Learning Talking oversees clinical placement

August, 2012

Learning Talking supported two speech and language therapist students from City University during a 5 week clinical placement at Handsworth Primary School in Highams Park, E4.  A number of children with speech, language and communication needs received support from the students who were supervised by Chris Rose from Learning Talking. The school were very welcoming to the students and school staff reported that they found the additional support for the children very beneficial.

Learning Talking gain Talk Boost licence

August, 2012

Learning Talking now have a licensed Talk Boost practitioner on the team. Chris Rose received a bursary from ICAN to attend the training event in Hoxton. ICAN’s excellent trainer Jon Gilmartin provided a very informative days training. Learning Talking are now looking forward to providing Talk Boost to schools in the London area (see training page for further information).