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How do you measure the impact of speech and language therapy?

How do you measure the impact of speech and language therapy?
When “he’s doing really well” just doesn’t cut the mustard. Here’s the thing, without evaluation, it is impossible to know whether an intervention is having a positive impact on learning. It can be tempting to implement plausible-sounding strategies which, in reality, don’t benefit students at all.

Like every other type of intervention, Speech and Language Therapy needs to be accountable. It is not sufficient that you ‘have a Speech and Language therapist’ or a pupil has ‘seen as Speech and Language therapist’. The impact of assessment, intervention and training should have a measurable effect on a pupil’s well-being, their access to the curriculum and most importantly their functional communication.

With school budget cuts hitting the headlines it is more important than ever to know the money you are spending is delivering real, measurable impact on pupil’s achievement levels and their well being.

  • Do you know how much you are spending on Speech and Language Therapy?
  • Do you know the impact your current Speech and Language therapy provision is having on pupil outcomes and well-being?

If the answer is no or I’m not sure – it might be time to ask your Speech and language therapist some difficult questions. Gathering regular feedback on how well pupils have developed in therapy is important in enabling teachers to and provide the right level of challenge in future lessons. It is also integral to budget planning for pupils with SEN. Before you begin, there may be things you haven’t considered when buying in extra Speech and Language therapy. There are some useful case studies here from the communication trust which may help you.

Identifying pupils with SLCN

What to consider

Do you have a system in place to know which children are more likely to have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) ? Do you rely on the expertise of staff within the school?

What to know

You may have internal systems to support the identification of pupils with SLCN, but you should also ask your Speech and Language therapy service to help you with this. After screening, you should know the threshold scores that qualify a pupil for a referral to a Speech and Language Therapist

What to ask your speech and language therapist

  1. How will you help us identify pupil’s will SLCN?
  2. How will this system be communicated across the school?
  3. How often will this system be reviewed?

Setting targets for pupils with SLCN

What to consider

The therapist should guide your expectations based on their evaluation of the pupil’s ability. The parents will also have their priorities which may not directly impact achievements levels across the curriculum. So, you must balance parental expectations with teachers and therapists prerogatives.

What to know

Speech and Language Therapists, like all educators, are accountable for pupil outcomes. Therefore, data-based decision making, including gathering and interpreting data with individual students, as well as overall program evaluation are essential responsibilities.

Targets should be set collaboratively with the teaching staff, parents (carers) and the pupil. Targets should also need to be established before the course of therapy begins.

Planning for discharge from therapy should be discussed in the initial target setting meeting in order to manage expectations of those involved with the pupil.

Of course, pupil progress and priorities can change during therapy. But, an initial discussion of “how we know when the treatment has been successful” is not only useful but necessary.

Speech and language therapy service should monitor the effectiveness of each intervention undertaken and review each case where the anticipated results are not materialising, and implement alternative measures where appropriate to do. Whether targeted intervention or direct therapy, all our approaches should be based on substantial evidence; pre and post tests would be recommended for any targeted interventions, so pupils are accurately identified and progress measured.

Regular quantitative tracking of pupil progress is extremely useful and can be achieved through using systems like Mable.

This enables you to be positive that the speech and language (S&L) approaches are meeting needs and are impactful.

What to ask your speech and language therapist

  • Does the S&L service demonstrate the progress of individual pupils in a clear and meaningful way?
  • Does the S&L service plan and implement an intervention in collaboration with school and parents?
  • How will the S&L service account for pupils not reaching expected aims?

Delegating speech and language work
What to consider

When delegating work to others, speech and language therapists have a legal responsibility to have determined the knowledge and skill level required to perform the appointed task.

What to know

That’s not all, speech and language therapists must operate within the following guidelines when appointing or assigning tasks to Teaching Assistants and other members of school staff:

  • The primary motivation for delegation is to serve the interests of the pupil.

  • The Speech and language therapist must undertake appropriate assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of the delegated role.

  • The person to whom the task is delegated must have the proper role, level of experience and competence to carry it out.

  • The Speech and language therapist must not delegate tasks and responsibilities to colleagues that are beyond their level of skill and experience.

What to ask your speech and language therapist

  1. How do you evaluate the appropriateness of delegating follow-up work to school staff?
  2. How will you report to the Senior Leadership Team if the member of assigned staff is not suitable?
  3. How do you ensure that delegating to school staff remains within the best interests of the pupil?
  4. How is this evaluated?

Ofsted & speech and language interventions

What to consider

An Ofsted representative recently told The Key that “inspectors do not assess the quality of individual interventions, just as they do not evaluate the quality of individual lessons.” Ofsted will be considering the impact of the intervention across the school. They will also want to know: why that response was chosen; what the impact has been and how the school is tracking the impact.

What to know

You need to choose a service that provides the above information for you. There is no point in paying for an external service that requires you to scramble around for data before and inspection. You should have open and transparent access to data for each pupil receiving Speech and Language therapy. The data available to you should include quantitative and qualitative information reporting the impact in agreed areas for students.

What to ask your speech and language therapist

  1. Does the Speech and Language service support the school to create case studies for school governors and inspection?
  2. Does the speech and language service have a system Ofsted can access to see effectiveness reports?

Costing implications

What to know

At the end of the day, the money you spend on intervention is imperative! It needs to demonstrate outcomes and prove it has meaningful, measurable impact.

Less experienced Speech and Language therapy staff will be cheaper, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they will be cost effective or impactful. A newly qualified Speech and Language therapist have a starting wage of around £20k and a Speech and language therapist with a much higher level of experience will expect anything up to £50k. This document provides a rough outline of salary expectations for Speech and Language therapists in the NHS.

What to consider

However ambitious, a newly qualified therapist will require more time for supervision from senior staff and planning therapy and writing reports. Think of them like NQTs and consider the level of support they are provided within your school. Are you able to allow for this?

Ultimately, The cost of intervention needs to reflect in pupil outcome data so make sure you choose a service that can quantifiably produce this data as you require it.

What to ask your speech and language service

  1. Does the S&L service allow you to see the progress of pupils against individual cost?
  2. Does the S&L service allow you to see the impact of total spend?
  3. How often does the therapist require time off for supervision?
  4. Will the Speech and Language therapist be taking time off during term time?