Luton’s Transformation of Speech, Language and Communication services end of project report

Introduction and context

In 2019 Luton Council successfully secured funding of £452,000 from the Department for Education (DfE) for its Early Outcome Fund (EOF) programme to support speech, communication and language development in babies and young children from the antenatal period through to when they start school. This yearlong programme, Talking Takes Off, has provided clear support and guidance to all families to give their children the very best start in life. It has delivered additional support for those parents and young children where there were identified needs. The programme has been delivered as part of Luton’s Flying Start strategy, which provides prevention and early help services from pregnancy to five. This funding has also linked with Luton’s Investment Framework in terms of ensuring all children achieve better educational outcomes to make sure they are in the best possible position to take advantage of future employment opportunities in the town.

Throughout the year the core team has worked with a range of partners including maternity and paediatric services, health visiting teams, speech and language therapy services, children’s centres, primary care settings, dentists, Adult Learning, the SENS service, early years providers, schools, libraries and the Local Parks service. Staff have been offered appropriate training supporting early communication and language development so they can use this as part of their work with babies, children, and share skills with parents. 

What has Talking Takes Off achieved, developed and offered?

Early identification and support for families

  • New Early Years Communication and Language toolkit – includes a quick screener and a comprehensive screening tool to help early identification and offers signposting information and useful resources and advice for professionals and parents. The toolkit also contains the new early year’s pathway for speech, language and communication support in Luton. To see the new tool click here  
  • A new on line GP screening tool and top ten practical advice for GPs to use with parents who are concerned about their child’s development has been launched for all Luton GP’s. The screening tool facilitates referral to universal, targeted and specialist services, ensuring that all parents have their concerns fully addressed and supported.

New services as part of the new pathway

  • Talking Takes off for Communication – a six-week course for parents and children focused on the importance of parents and the home learning environment. This programme is designed for children who are identified as needing additional support to build communication skills. Early findings include positive parental satisfaction and reported improvement in their children’s speech and language.
  • Talking Takes Off drop in with a Speech and Language Therapist – A therapist offers informal and early advice within an existing Children’s Centre stay and play session.
  • Talking Tots – a parent workshop and follow up stay and play session run by a Speech and Language Therapist to advise families on parent – child interaction and offer early, targeted advice for families. The programme aims to reduce parental concern and increase parental confidence in supporting their child’s communication development.

Talking Takes off training offer

  • Free universal training to 449 staff from across services in Luton. The training has focused on why early communication and language is so important, an introduction to the Building Blocks for Communication and sharing the new screening tool, pathway and resources.
  • Free-targeted communication and language training – courses on bilingualism, selective mutism and enhanced communication and language skills have been delivered to 75 practitioners who required more detailed training on how to support families and their children.  
  • Talking Takes Off Communication champions – 24 trained in 2019 and by the end of June 2020 49 professionals will have been trained to support their colleagues on the key messages in their workplace. In-house training has already reached 53 more professionals.
  • Strategic Communication Champions –strategic leaders from across key local agencies have agreed to take on this role and actively promote the importance of early communication and language in their organisations.

Data and information

  • A Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) on speech language and Communication has been developed to help us all understand the needs in Luton. This resourcehas beenrecognised by the Council for Disabled Children as an example of best practice in the region. To access the document gotoLuton Speech, Language and Communication Needs Assessment – Full Version
  • Luton Assessment Tracking System (LATS) This tool has been  developed over the year to further support our understanding of progress of children in our early year’s settings.
  • Use of strategic data – work has been undertaken by the Business Intelligence Team to support the development of data sets to enable a strategic approach to our understanding.

Luton as a communication friendly town

  • Increasing the number of ICAN Ambassadors – these are recruited from diverse communities across Luton and trained to deliver key messages to support early communication and language development. There are now 74 ambassadors of which 30 are highly active in their role.
  • Twenty-two early years’ settings working towards a Communication Friendly Settings Award. This awardinvites early years’ settings to reflect upon three areas of practice; the environment, adult interaction and the settings development. Settings over a 6 month period collect evidence against each element of the programme to support their completion of the Award. 
  • Farley and Northwell have established local Talking Takes Off Community groups to support how parents and professionals can develop a local response to support communication and language in the early years.
  • Look for a Book – finding, reading and hiding books in North Luton – supported by Luton Council and volunteers. Messages through Facebook suggest it was well received by parents and children. Communities are being offered advice and support to hold their own scheme.
  • While you Wait Book Boxes – Books to be placed where people wait such as surgeries and hospital appointments, currently 31 boxes to be given to a range of partners including Luton Council Customer Services, Active Luton, the Edwin Lobo Centre,  Audiology and Dental Clinics, The Flying Start Children’s Centres and Community Centres.
  • Talking Takes Off has had a comprehensive approach to marketing and communications – positive results and outcomes include:
    • Talking Takes Off branding developed
    • Local TV interview to outline the project
    • Successful and well attended launch in Luton town centre with TV, radio and press coverage
    • A range of posters with key communication messages – also in Urdu, Romanian and Polish displayed across venues in town. We also have three celebrity endorsed posters.
    • Quarterly newsletter for professionals
    • Promotion at local events
    • Creation of web and social media pages
    • Promotional video in Polish

Evaluation

Luton Borough Council is working with the University of Bedfordshire to measure the success of Talking Takes Off. The findings suggest that TTO made a direct impact on the home learning environment and showed that the training has significantly improved people’s confidence, understanding and knowledge.

Sustainability going forward

Talking Takes Off was funded as a one-year programme with a grant from the Department for Education through the Early Outcome Fund. The aim of this grant was to improve young children’s communication and language development in the earliest years of life. Partners have worked hard in delivering the key parts of the programme in a very short time period. The next step is to ensure that the work that has been started continues and is embedded in practice for professionals, and parents feel that they can access the support they need.

Talking Takes Off is a key part of Flying Start and as such, some of the work programme will sit here. There is also a very strong connection to the SEND Written Statement of Action, where parents access to Speech, Language and Communication services was identified as an area for work.

The Programme Board has developed a sustainability plan to allow us to plan going forward. We are also fortunate that Emily Martin, a Speech and Language Therapist from Cambridge Community Service who has been working on Talking Takes Off this year, will be continuing to work full time on the programme over the next year. This will allow us to continue to: 

  • offer a range of training alongside other early years professionals
  • support the embedding of the new Early Years Communication and Language toolkit for practitioners which includes the new screening tool and the new graduated pathway.
  • deliver new interventions to parents as part of our new early year’s communication and language pathway.
For more information Email Talkingtakesoff@luton.gov.uk  
Visit www.flyingstartluton/talkingtakesoff  
Telephone 01582 547980  
visit the Flying Start Facebook page @FSLuton  

 

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