15th July - BERA Presidential Roundtables provide compelling research reviews offering a state-of-the-art position on topics that are of interest to researchers, practitioners, policy makers and wider society. Each Presidential Roundtable results in a clear statement of the evidence in the field and implications for educational policy and practice. It is hoped that the statements will be a key reference point over several years, subject to periodic review and updating. The roundtables will also be used to promote engagement and dialogue across as many stakeholders as possible.
Substantial research evidence links good language and literacy development with long-term achievements in education, better social-emotional skills, good health, improved employment prospects and more opportunities for social mobility. Conversely, poor language skills and literacy are associated with poorer education, skills, health, employment and higher risks of offending.
Future employment trends, within the context of growing AI and less manual labour, mean children becoming young adults in the mid-2030s will encounter challenges which require even better communication and critical thinking skills.
It is now widely accepted that the early years of a child’s life lay the fundamental foundations for language competence: it is a period of rapid brain development. The language children hear, and the people with whom they engage, leaves a strong imprint on their speech, language skills and cognitive development. These can be improved later in life, but later means more expensive interventions.
If we are to address the main factors which promote or inhibit language development in young children, we must consider some key proximal factors. This means shining a light on best research evidence and practice, resources for home learning environments, parent support, the skills of the pre-school, primary and specialist language workforce, early identification and interventions.
Our paper will focus sharply on research evidence, policy and practice, and will engage with the most important matters for the early years — on what we know supports language and communication development and identify the key gaps and priorities.
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