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to helping their child. We split each session into four main elements:

  • Parent focus time. 30 minutes for parents and staff to discuss that week’s course focus while the children are in their class

  • The children join us for 15 minutes of speaking and listening games. Parents learn in advance about the aims of the

activities and are encouraged to join in t support their child The parents and children then have 30 minutes of free play with various activities. This is an opportunity for the parents to try out anything already discussed Snack time at the end allows for demonstrating and developing social language and skills In June 2005, we reassessed the children whose parents were the first to complete the accredited course (their first assessment was in September 2004).


Eight out of the 10 children made greater gains over the time elapsed between assessments in either their receptive or expressive language or both. Of these, four progressed from the normal range to above average on reassessment, three progressed from having delayed language to within the normal range and one progressed from moderate to mild language delay.

The other two children made less than 10 months’ progress and still had delayed

language skills on reassessment. However, all

10 had made some progress with their

general communication skills on an informal

checklist looking at listening skills, eye contact, turn taking, and confidence in communicating.

Between September 2004 and July 2005, 26 parents attended Talk-Away and 18 submitted folders for accreditation. Eleven gained a level 1 certificate and seven entry level qualifications.

Since introducing the accredited course, parental attendance levels have increased, with an 88% attendance rate in the first term. We did not expect this outcome, given our concern that parents would find the course too daunting.

Another encouraging outcome is that some parents have gone on to undertake other forms of training, for example computer courses at a local adult education centre. Some are also considering courses in childcare and childminding, while others are keen to become more involved in the school.

Despite these encouraging outcomes, it is nevertheless difficult to evaluate how parents feel about the groups. We decided to record comments from parents throughout the duration of the course and these show what they feel they, and their children, have gained from Talk-Away:

“P’s confidence has really come on. When we go to see friends, she used to hide behind me and now she’ll look at them and have a conversation.”

“I’ve loved having time for me and M, but also having something to focus on for myself

  • doing the folder. I would love to carry on

and do something else with M and also maybe some further training when M is full

time at school.”

“At first I thought I wouldn’t do a folder – I’m rubbish at putting pen to paper, but last week after you helped me fill in some of it, I thought I’d do it and I feel a real sense of achievement.”

Since November 2004 I have been working as part of a new children’s centre in the same area in Oxford and have run the accredited course in another school. I am also developing the course to offer it to parents of younger children from the wider community. We are keen for people who are interested in the course to visit us or to hear from anyone undertaking similar projects.

We feel very encouraged by the way Talk- Away has developed. The progress in the children’s language and communication skills is very positive and the benefits for the parents have been numerous and generally unexpected. Encouraging those who are most important in these children’s lives to feel confident about themselves, their achievements and their future, is undoubtedly the most effective way to encourage their own children towards life- long learning.

Lisa Dobraszczyk Specialist SL , Oxford City PCT Email: lisa.dob@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Acknowledgements Thanks to Anne Wells,Talk-Away teacher and Liz Smith, educational psychologist,for her write-up for the DfES

Figure one: Helping your child with language and communication skills - level 1

Learning outcomes By the end of the unit the learner will be able to…

Assessment criteria The learner has met this learning outcome because they can…

1 Show they realise the value of

1.1 Adapt their position to be on

non-verbal communication as they interact with their child

Method of assessment

Evidence of assessment

a level, face to face with the child, giving good eye contact to make the most of talking opportunities

Tutor observation and discussion

Tutor records. Student folder

2 Show they can model or demonstrate good listening skills as they interact with their child

2.1 Use some of the following: looking, waiting, copying what the child has said, adding some words to the child’s or answering to show the child they are listening

Tutor observation and discussion

Tutor records. Student folder

3 Understand the value of praise in encouraging a child’s language

3.1 Use praise regularly to encourage a child’s talking, listening and play

Tutor observation and discussion

Tutor records. Student folder


April 2006 bulletin


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