Stoke Speaks Out

Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides.”

Rita Mae Brown

Area Coordinator: Miss Katie Bentley

Subject Link Governor: Melanie James

External Links: Stoke Speaks Out, Blackfriars Teaching Hub

Vision and INtent

The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development. Children’s back-and-forth interactions from an early age form the foundations for language and cognitive development. The number and quality of the conversations they have with adults and peers throughout the day in a language-rich environment is crucial.

By commenting on what children are interested in or doing, and echoing back what they say with new vocabulary added, practitioners will build children's language effectively.

Reading frequently to children, and engaging them actively in stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems, and then providing them with extensive opportunities to use and embed new words in a range of contexts, will give children the opportunity to thrive.

Through conversation, story-telling and role play, where children share their ideas with support and modellingfrom their teacher, and sensitive questioning that invites them to elaborate, children become comfortable using a rich range of vocabulary and language structures.

Stoke Speaks Out is an initiative which was set up in 2004 to support children’s speech and language development in Stoke on Trent. It involves everyone who links with children in some way including parents, practitioners and the wider community.

In 2002 local research identified that many children were starting nursery with poor language skills; by 2004 this was as high as 64% of children. Stoke Speaks Out was set up to make sure everyone knows how to support children, what to expect and where to seek help if children are struggling. The belief of the programme is that ‘communication is everybody’s business’.

Speech and language development are the building blocks for learning. Good communication is essential for socialising, learning and to developing your full potential. Language delay has been linked to poor educational attainment, anti-social behaviour and long-term mental health difficulties. We know that the majority of brain growth takes place in the first 3 years of life so Stoke Speaks Out is focused on early life and early education to ensure all children are supported as well as they can be.

Stoke Speaks Out is a hub for speech, language and communication activities. We provide a wide range of high-quality training for people working with children under 7 years. We promote key messages that support early speech, language and communication through Facebook, social media and community campaigns and develop resources to use with children and families.

The current team consists of Communication Champions and Speech and Language Therapists working closely with a range of agencies such as Health Visitors and Early Years teams.

We work closely with parents and families through a variety of methods including the ‘Communication Ambassador’ programme of workshops and training.

Since setting up in 2004, the programme has trained over 8000 practitioners in key messages around early attachment, child development and speech and language development.

Between 2004 and 2020 we have seen a marked improvement in children’s language development. We have embedded the key messages across the city and ensured the local workforce understand the importance and relevance of early speech, language and communication.

Area Coordinator

Hello! My name is Miss Bentley and I am the coodinator for Stoke Speaks Out here at Cheadle Primary School.

Curriculum and implementation


The Stoke Speaks Out assessment tool; The Early Communication Screening Tool, was established in 2015 by Speech Therapists, working in connection with Stoke Speaks Out.

The tool is a quick assessment, taking approximately 5-10 minutes per child and is delivered by a familiar adult, who works within the Early Years team.

The aim of the screening tool is to identify delays in understanding and speaking and it can be used to identify speech and language intervention needs and set targets.

The assessment contains 10 questions, which assesses the child’s understanding of language and the child’s spoken language. The final question on the assessment assesses pronunciation of speech sounds, using the practitioner’s judgements to see if speech sounds are clear.

When the assessment is complete, the results can be interpreted to give a red, amber or green scoring. These scorings can then be used to determine the child’s next steps and to see if the child requires a referral to Speech and Language Therapy.

In many instances, children may just require additional ‘best practice’ modelling of speech or a classroom-based intervention, to further their development.