Barnsley joins crusade to improve our children’s early years language skills

We’re delighted to be supporting a new national campaign set to empower parents and carers to help their preschool children develop their early language and communication skills before starting their journey through school. 

The new Home Learning Environment (HLE) campaign was launched earlier this month by the Department for Education, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Care’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), to encourage parents and carers to improve their child’s early language skills through chatting, playing and reading. 

Research shows that some of the most disadvantaged children in the UK start school months behind their peers in terms of language skills and the gap can grow year on year into adult life. In fact, children starting school with poor language skills may be up to twice as likely to be unemployed in their 30s. 

The need for this campaign has further increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic, following a rise in the number of children starting school with language skills poorer than would have been expected prior to the pandemic.  

Recognising the barriers some parents face in helping their children - such as lack of time, confidence and understanding of what activities to do, the campaign aims to remove the barriers by sharing activities and ideas that can be incorporated into everyday life and routines; be done anywhere; cost nothing and will also be a rewarding experience. 

A dedicated Home Learning Environment Hub has been developed on the NHS’s Start for Life Website, which provides a whole host of tips and activities to help with speech development; ideas to help use more words as well as plenty of advice, help and support. What’s more, the hub is split into age categories to help at each stage of your child’s language development journey. We will also be using the hub to register and promote further support available in the Barnsley area. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Talk to your child about what has happened so far in the day – where have they been? Who did they meet? what did they do? and what are they doing next? 
  • Look at picture books together. Ask them questions about the picture and guess what happens next or use it to introduce your child to new things -point to the pictures and say what you see. 
  • If your child says a word such as "dog", you could respond with further detail, such as "Yes, it's a big, noisy dog, what noise does it make?"
  • As soon as you notice your child looking or pointing at something, talk about it before their attention moves on to something else. 
  • Talk to your child in short, simple sentences, as it helps them understand what you are saying and makes it easier for them to have a go at copying when they are ready. 

Cllr Trevor Cave, Cabinet Spokesperson for Children’s Services, said: “Particularly in light of the detrimental impact Covid-19 has had on the early language development of children born around that time, it’s great to hear that we’re supporting the nationwide Home Learning Environment Campaign, here in Barnsley. 

“The hub is a wonderful resource jammed packed with ideas and activities that you can do with your child and shows how easy it is to incorporate them into everyday life. One thing that stands out to me is that all these activities are fun and things that I’m sure everyone in the family could get involved with, as well as being rewarding. 

“We want every child in Barnsley to reach their potential and supporting our children to improve their early language skills will go a long way in achieving this by laying the foundations they need to prepare for school and their future.  

“I’d encourage all parents and carers of preschool children to take a look at the hub to help give their children the best start in life as we drive towards making Barnsley the place of possibilities.” 

For information or support about all aspects of family services, providers and practitioners in Barnsley, please visit our Family Information Directory. 

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