Hampshire Keep On Talking projects

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Early Years
  • Schools and Communities
  • Families, Parents and Carers
  • General resources

Basic details


Organisation submitting example

Services For Young Children, Hampshire Local Authority

Local authority/local area:


The context and rationale

Keep on Talking (KoT) is a Hampshire specific early communication and language development project established in April 2011 following the end of the national project, Every Child a Talker (ECaT), in March 2011. 

Due to the success of the national and Hampshire ECaT projects, Services for Young Children (SfYC) made a commitment to maintaining early language development projects in 2011/12. The SfYC strategic plan included the improvement of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Communication, Language and Literacy outcomes as part of the strategy for meeting their Early Years Outcome Duty (EYOD) and the project was developed to support meeting this duty. 

To improve the outcomes of children’s language and communication development throughout Hampshire the local authority (LA) committed to the original ECaT principle aims and a two pronged approach was developed:
- to target geographical areas of greatest need with a focused project
- to provide the opportunity for all practitioners to develop their 
understanding of early language development.

A review and analysis of the most significant and successful elements of the national and Hampshire ECaT projects and lessons learned revealed the activities that had the greatest impact on improving the outcomes of young children’s language development. These elements included the need to involve schools and children's centres in the approach and the need to tailor make support and were incorporated into a programme that became the Hampshire Keep on Talking project. 

A range of resources and development materials were put together and reproduced in ring binders under the Hampshire Keep on Talking logo.

The EYFS Profile data and IDACI map were analysed to select the geographical areas of greatest need for KoT projects to be established in 2011/12. Six areas were initially identified.

A range of opportunities were planned for practitioners throughout the County including early speech and language development courses, KoT briefings, the development of a website and conferences.

The practice

It was decided that Keep On Talking projects should involve Year R classes in schools as well as pre-school settings, to foster good liaison and joint working. Each project comprised around 20 schools and settings, the settings being from as wide a range as possible and including maintained schools and nurseries, Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) pre-schools and nurseries, childminders and children’s centres. 

As well as a KoT ring binder being given to all participating providers, a range of documents to support the project team and settings were utilised and some specifically developed. These included:
- Early Years District Advisory Teacher (EYDAT) guidance for KoT projects 
- EYDAT budget guidance
- KoT project partnership agreement
- visit Record of Contact prompt sheet
- ECaT child monitoring form
- Practitioner confidence questionnaire.

For each project a Services for Young Children local project team was identified, including Early Years District Advisory Teachers, Children’s Centre Support Teachers (CCSTs) and, wherever possible, Inclusion Co-ordinators (InCos). In total six EYDATs, 17 CCSTs and approximately four InCos supported projects. The Project Lead maintained an overview, met regularly with teams and provided on-going support.

Each setting was required to select an Early Language Lead Practitioner (ELLP), and a person specification was provided to assist this selection. In total 64 pre-school and nursery settings and 32 schools were involved in the four projects completed. Settings were engaged through launch events, delivered by the Project Lead, to which Managers, Headteachers and children’s centre staff were invited. The commitment of managers was a clear expectation from the start, and they were required to sign an agreement clearly outlining roles and responsibilities of Managers, ELLPs and the Local Authority. The use of log sheets with ELLP and Manager sign off requirements effectively maintained accountability and commitment. 

At an early stage of the projects, ELLPs were required to complete a number of audits of provision within their setting, a comprehensive audit of their own skills and training needs, and an action plan. The Inclusion Development Programme 1 (Speech and Language) and Letters and Sounds were quickly identified as training needs in some settings and this Continuing Professional Development (CPD) need was acted upon. Another core training element was a series of three Speech and Language workshops provided by a Speech and Language Therapist. 

Other local CPD needs were identified and met through regular cluster and training opportunities. These included input from the Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service, rhyme time/stories and dialogic book sharing (Library Service), Every Child’s A Talker and a Musician ( Music Service), Makaton (Area Inclusion Team). Members of the local KoT project team visited the ELLPs in their settings on a regular basis between training events, to provide on-going mentoring and support. The Project Lead provided visit prompt sheets to facilitate these visits. ELLPs were also provided with a range of literature and resources to support their own knowledge and developments in settings. ELLPs frequently received online updates from ICAN (the children's communication charity) and Early Reading Connects, and also had access to the Hampshire Keep On Talking website http://www.hants.gov.uk/childrens-services/kot.

Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

Main impact measures
Throughout the project, ELLPs carried out an assessment of their children on a termly basis using the ECaT child monitoring form. The data was submitted to the Project Lead who collated the data for all providers on their project to gain an overview and analyse the impact.

A confidence questionnaire was completed by all ELLPs at the start and formal completion of each project. Example results are available from the C4EO team at C4EO team at the NFER.

Additional impact measures included Records of Contact (RoCs), training evaluations, learning journals, Ofsted reports provisional Early years Foundation Stage data and anecdotal evidence.

General outcomes

Children’s progress
Each child in the project was monitored once each term for three terms using the Every Child A Talker child monitoring form, assessing a child’s skills in the measures of Listening and Attention, Understanding, Talking and Social Communication. In Autumn 2011, 3,716 children were monitored, in Spring 2012, 3,924 children were monitored, and in Summer 2012, 3,822 children were monitored overall. The variance in numbers was due to children joining or leaving settings during the course of the year.

Data summary for all projects showed encouraging impact in all measures, with a significant percentage of children moving from the ‘at risk’ category to ‘as expected’, and also an increase in the percentage of children ‘ahead’ of expectations.

Over the year observation, assessment and monitoring using the tools became embedded in Keep On Talking settings. Deadlines for submitting data were met, and the majority of ELLPs handled the process of monitoring progress and analysing results with high levels of competence and confidence, also sharing their successes with whole staff teams and parents. Examples of confident assessment and the impact of planned interventions include accounts of focused language groups and children’s individual Keep On Talking plans. Feedback from parents speaks powerfully of the improvements brought about in their relationships and understanding of their own child’s Speech, Language and Communication (SLC) needs.

Practitioner confidence
Keep On Talking has had a significant impact on ELLP confidence, self esteem and professional knowledge, with targeted settings becoming a tight knit learning community, providing mutual support, respect and sharing of best practice. All ELLPs completed a confidence schedule questionnaire at the start and end of the project so that impact could be measured. All projects showed a significant decrease in the number of ELLPs who were lacking in confidence in identifying or supporting children’s speech, language and communication skills. ELLPs were encouraged to complete reflective journals, and these provide a valuable insight into their individual learning journeys and growing confidence and reflective practice. Each project held a ‘celebration event’ to which members of the wider local development team and other agencies were invited, and where ELLPs displayed their journals and examples of good practice, 

Many ELLPs have provided displays at launches for new projects, and are offering buddying support to new settings and schools. Several ELLPs are engaged in further/higher study, and have used their Keep On Talking role to support work for professional qualifications e.g. Foundation Degree, EYPS. 

Parental engagement is a priority in Keep On Talking. The ‘Parents Champions’ initiative was an innovation in Hampshire during ECAT, and has been instrumental in engaging and informing parents and promoting their role as advocates amongst other parents. Three parents’ meetings per project were organised and all were well attended (speech and language workshop, music session and rhyme time/story session). Parental engagement was promoted effectively at setting level through information sessions and displays, newsletter items, rhyme and story sessions, walks, Dads’ breakfast, toys which children can take home to provide a home-setting link, story sacks and chatter boxes.

Some settings encouraged parents to complete a confidence questionnaire in order to meet their needs most effectively.

Children’s centres also secured additional funding and ran supplementary speech and language groups with parents.

Eight case studies are available from the C4EO team C4EO team at the NFER.

Helping others to replicate your practice


A sum of £28,750 was allocated to each Keep On Talking project, with each school receiving £1,500 and each pre-school setting receiving £850. Funded ELLP release time and resources were initially a key factor in project success.

The longer term plan is that with the range of support resources which have been developed, including the website and a KoT DVD of good practice, future projects will be sustainable when funding is reduced or unavailable. Local teams will also have developed sufficient experience to run projects independently, and will draw considerably on the expertise of former ELLPs to develop practice in their local area.

Lessons learned
It was important to:
• Ensure that a project agreement is shared and signed by all involved at the start of the project so that expectations and responsibilities are clear.
• Make use of practitioner expertise and experience as much as possible, as other practitioners respond particularly positively to others who have ‘walked the walk’.
• Be flexible to meet the needs of parents/carers: in areas where parental engagement was a challenge, a crèche was provided to enable parents to access KoT training and events. Some settings/schools also arranged their own training at a time/venue which was more accessible for their parents.

Core leadership behaviours 
The following eight core behaviours have been identified as part of successful elements of leadership (see National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL. 

Those that are emboldened apply to this example.

1. openness to possibilities

2. the ability to collaborate
Multi-agency collaboration is key to these projects. 

3. demonstrating a belief in team and people
A principle project aim is to empower practitioners and to develop a learning community.

4. personal resilience and tenacity

5. the ability to create and sustain commitment across a system
All branches of SFYC have a shared commitment to improving children’s communication skills as these impact on life chances. 

6. focusing on results 

7. the ability to simplify 

8. the ability to learn continuously.

C4EO Golden Threads
The following golden threads apply to this example.

Know your communities
Effective data analysis ensures that projects are targeted to areas of Hampshire where outcomes for children are least good. 

Together with children, parents and families – involve service users
We recognise that parents are a child’s first educators and that a supportive home learning environment is vital, therefore we are committed to involving parents and families in all projects.

Unite to succeed – the right support at the right time 
Early identification of children at risk of delay ensures effective early support to enable children to ‘catch up'.

Contact Us

t. 020 7833 6825
e. contactus@C4EO.org.uk

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