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Children helped learn language skills

19 March 2012

A £10,000 grant from the Association of Jersey Charities means that children aged from birth to 3 in the Island will be given the best opportunity to develop essential language skills in their early years settings.

The Language for Life Strategy was launched in 2010 to promote recognition that speech, language and communication are foundation skills for life that need to be nurtured from birth onwards. A training programme has been delivered to practitioners working with children aged from 3 - 5. However, the grant, which was secured from the Association of Jersey charities for the project by the Jersey Child Care Trust, means that children will benefit at an earlier age.


The money has paid for training for Early Years Practitioners who work with children from birth to 3, as well as for a booklet which will be given to all new parents about how they can support their child’s language skills from birth. Copies of the booklet, called 'Small Talk' will be available in English, Polish and Portuguese, and will be handed out by health visitors.

The head of speech and language therapy in Jersey, Dr Lisa Perkins, said: “The 'Language for Life' strategy has as its vision a partnership approach to meeting the speech, language and communication needs of Jersey’s children in their early years. The partnership is between parents, States departments, and the private and third sectors. It has been embraced by the work of the Early Years Care Partnership.

The agencies participating in 'Language for Life' include:

  • Health and Social Services
  • Education, Sport and Culture
  • Family Nursing and Home Care
  • the Early Years Care Partnership
  • the Jersey Child Care Trust
  • the Bridge
  • NSPCC Pathways
  • private and public sector childcare and early years education settings

Life outcomes

Dr Perkins said "Oral language development underpins the development of literacy and that makes it the key to progress in school and ultimately, positive life outcomes. Being able to speak clearly and process speech sounds, to understand others, to express ideas and interact with others are fundamental building blocks for a child’s development. Good communication, language and literacy at a young age have the highest correlation with outcomes in school at 7 years. The impact of poor language skills on children’s readiness to access the curriculum is well recognised by primary school staff."

Fiona Vacher, head of the Jersey Child Care Trust, said "We know that the changing world in which children are growing up presents challenges to early language development. Busy lives, increased use of IT- related forms of entertainment and reduced access for parents to good models of parent-child interaction in their community all impact negatively on the opportunities for early language development in the home. Since what parents do is the strongest predictor of children’s progress, it is essential that parents understand the importance of language development from birth and their role in supporting this. Jersey has the highest level of female participation in the workforce with 75% of mothers working and 47% of children under 3 in registered childcare. Having an early year’s workforce skilled in providing children with rich opportunities for language development from birth is therefore also vital."

Jennifer McDonald is one of the Senior Speech and Language Therapists who will be delivering the training programme in partnership with colleagues from the child care sector and the Education Department’s Childcare Registration and Development team.

"We have had a very positive response from practitioners working with children in the Foundation stage and they have highlighted the need for it to be extended to practitioners working with younger children. Participants will learn how to use play and daily activities to create enriched, interactive language-learning environments for all children" said Jennifer. 

There is a booklet entitled 'Small Talk' by the Communication Trust and is available to download, along with other useful resources for parents and practitioners on the website.

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