Minister backs new speech and language initiative in local schools

Dr Anne McKeever, SEHSCT; Lorraine Coulter, SEHSCT; Edwin Poots MLA; Mabel Scullion, Barnardos; Gail Malmo, PHA; Gillian Dunlop, Largymore Primary; Adrian Bird, Resurgam Trust; Peter Weir, Minister for Education; Tracey Cassells, Barbour Nursery School; Sean Campbell, Old Warren Primary and Amanda Lloyd, Lisburn Sure Start.
Dr Anne McKeever, SEHSCT; Lorraine Coulter, SEHSCT; Edwin Poots MLA; Mabel Scullion, Barnardos; Gail Malmo, PHA; Gillian Dunlop, Largymore Primary; Adrian Bird, Resurgam Trust; Peter Weir, Minister for Education; Tracey Cassells, Barbour Nursery School; Sean Campbell, Old Warren Primary and Amanda Lloyd, Lisburn Sure Start.

Education Minister Peter Weir visited Lisburn recently for the official launch of the Talk Boost and Early Talk Boost programmes.

Thirteen local primary schools and five nursery schools/units have introduced the programmes, which support language delayed children to make progress with their language and communication skills.

The Public Health Agency-funded programmes are available in: Barbour, Old Warren, St Aloysius, Pond Park and Holy Trinity Nursery Schools/Units (Early Talk Boost); Largymore, Forthill, Brownlee, Knockmore, St Aloysius, Pond Park, Killowen, Harmony Hill, Seymour Hill, Tonagh, Ballymacash, Old Warren and St Joseph’s Primary Schools (Talk Boost).

The new initiative was made possible by the Early Intervention Lisburn Partnership, which was set up by The Resurgam Trust in 2011 to improve outcomes for children, young people and families in deprived areas of Lisburn.

Adrian Bird, Director of The Resurgam Trust, said: “We are delighted that the Minister for Education is here to support such an important development for our schools in Lisburn. Research carried out in 2013 in 10 primary schools in Lisburn highlighted 32 per cent of our children were entering primary school with a mild to moderate speech and language problem. We have worked closely with the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust Speech & Language department and are determined to make communication and language development a priority in Lisburn and will establish a community wide strategy to make it everyone’s business.”

Education Minister Peter Weir commented: “Being able to communicate is one of the most important skills we need in life. Almost everything we do involves communication. It is important, therefore, that children should be prepared, supported and encouraged to develop their language and communication skills. I would like to commend all those involved with the Talk Boost and Early Talk Boost programmes and I look forward to hearing about these inspiring programmes’ positive outcomes in the future.”

Research shows a child’s vocabulary skills at age five are a predictor of their employment status at age 34. Resolving speech and language difficulties by age six results in better outcomes for children.

Speech & language is the most important skill children will learn during their early schooling and has far-reaching implications for life-long confidence and wellbeing.

Tracey Cassells, principal of Barbour Nursery School, added: “We as a school are delighted to host the launch of the Early Talk Boost and Talk Boost programmes, and have implemented Early Talk Boost this year to give children the best start in life, and we are already seeing good results.”