Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, highlighted in Parliament the successes of the Language for Life Programme, funded by St John’s Foundation, at improving language development in early years education.

During Education Questions on April 29, Wera Hobhouse emphasised the importance of providing support for the development of speech and language in nursery and pre-school age children.

She hailed the Language for Life programme, supported by St John’s Foundation, Bath & North East Somerset Council and HCRG Care Group, for its potential to close the educational attainment gap.

The attainment gap measures the educational outcomes of those eligible for free school meals and compares them with the proportion of pupils who have never received free school meals.

The Language for Life programme was set up in 2021 to address the “wide and persistent gap” between the educational outcomes of the two groups of children. Early years practitioners are supplied with specialist support and resources to focus on closing the persistent word gap that impacts children’s later outcomes.

The success of the Language for Life programme is evident. The percentage of children needing additional language support at participating schools in Bath and North East Somerset has reduced from 84 per cent to just 29 per cent after only a year on the programme. 

Wera Hobhouse urged the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, David Johnston, to join her in congratulating the participating schools as well as St John’s Foundation for the success of the Language for Life programme. Mr Johnston praised the programme as “very encouraging” and said that he looked forward to hearing more about it. He went on to describe the measures the government were taking to improve language development in schools, particularly the Nuffield Early Language Intervention programme.

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, commented: “I am pleased that the Minister for Children was able to recognise what a success the Language for Life programme has been for children in Bath and across North East Somerset. 

“The figures relating to the number of children needing additional language support after a year on the programme are impressively low.” 

“I hope that the government learns from the example set by schools in Bath and prioritises language and speech programmes to give children the best start to life, ensuring that all children begin primary school with the level of speech they need to succeed.

“This would require accelerating the roll-out of the Language for Life programme for nursery and pre-school age children.”