How one preschool language unit supports children

Harvey, H., & Spencer, S. (2019). Specialist provision for language disorder: Staff and service user views of a preschool language unit. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 35(2), 93-111.

Aim of the paper:

Preschool language units (PLU) are designed to support children with severe and complex language disorders in mainstream schools by providing speech and language therapy and curriculum delivery. This paper aims to understand how a PLU supports children with language disorder. Children and teaching staff are asked for their views using interviews. Parents are asked for their views using questionnaires.

What they found:

The participants brought up four key points:


1. Inclusion

Teaching staff and parents suggested that the format of the PLU helped children to become more confident and helped their language skills develop. Children have mixed opinions about joining the mainstream nursery in the day. Some children enjoy having more friends and outdoor space in the mainstream section. Others prefer the quiet in the PLU.

2. The importance of relationships

Children, parents and teaching staff all found relationships built within the PLU valuable. Parents value their relationships with teachers. Children value their relationships with teachers and friends. Teaching staff value their relationships within the staff team. Teaching staff believed that good communication between a team of professionals, including a Speech and Language Therapist, was very important for supporting the children’s language development.

3. Challenges of access

Parents and teaching staff agreed that the PLU has a low number of pupils. Opinions on whether this is needed varied. Some thought that a bigger group would be better. Others thought that keeping a low number is more manageable for staff and pupils. Although the PLU is oversubscribed, limitations such as space, resources and class management prevent wider access to the PLU.

4. School readiness

Parents and teaching staff considered the PLU to be preparation for moving into mainstream schools. PLU was considered important for supporting the development of children’s language skills as well as other specific skills required in a school setting, such as sitting still.

What does this mean?

The PLU in this paper is highly regarded by the children, parents as well as teaching staff, who believe the PLU gives positive early educational and social experiences. Features that are perceived to be important for the success of the PLU include: class size, consistent daily routine, approachable staff and extra support for socialising.

This paper only studied one PLU and the responses received may not apply to all other PLUs. However, this paper is useful for giving the first rich description of a specialist preschool resource base for children with language disorders.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper has been made open access, which means everyone can read it.

Please click here to find the full paper.