The universal level is provision that is accessed by all children and is available across settings and schools. This was the focus of a specific project within the BCRP37. Increasing emphasis is being placed on the need for quality first teaching and on good universal educational provision. This should address the mildest or most transient SLCN whilst also providing excellent support to those children and young people with more significant need in accessing the curriculum. Consequently the Communication Supporting Classrooms (CsC) Tool38 was developed to audit the elements of the communication within a classroom that were supporting of spoken language development. The resulting tool is freely available for use and commissioners may wish to consider recommending this evidenced based tool as a universal measure within schools.
Universal level also includes the training of the wider workforce including teachers, SENCOs and learning support assistants, to have the skills to identify and provide good universal enrichment for all children. This means developing the skills and competences to provide communication supporting learning environments, to interact with children and young people using facilitative strategies and to ensure that the language of the curriculum is being made accessible as part of everyday practice.
This training needs to take place at both under-graduate and post-graduate levels for teachers and needs to be readily available to learning support assistants working with children and young people in schools. Specialists, including speech and language therapists and specialist teachers for SLCN need to be commissioned appropriately to support this workforce development.
The challenge of getting the optimum competency profile in the workforce is discussed in a number of papers produced as part of the Better Communication Action Plan following the Bercow Review39 40. The Speech, Language and Communication Framework (SLCF) provides a useful free tool which can be used to profile the training needs of the workforce and signpost to appropriate training41.
Effective teaching and good communication environments are key42