Manchester Met experts appointed to help improve communication skills of Greater Manchester’s young children

Professor Deborah James and Dr Julie Marshall to support GMCA’s Pathways to Talking project

Education and health professionals at Manchester Metropolitan University are assisting a government initiative that will support under-fives living in Greater Manchester find their voice through communication and language.

The Greater Manchester Pathways to Talking project will support the scale up and implementation of the current speech and language and communication pathway of the GM Early Years Delivery Model, which aims to give all children in Greater Manchester the best possible start in life.

Professor Deborah James from the Faculty of Education and Dr Julie Marshall from the Faculty of Health Psychology and Social Care at Manchester Metropolitan University will support with the implementation of the pathway, the evaluation of its success and turn the learning from the project into tools for practice in the future.

The initiative is supported by the Department for Education’s Early Outcomes Fund that was awarded to eight area areas in the UK to make sure all children who need it, get help to develop speech, language and communication.

Professor James said: “Julie and I are delighted to be able to support the development of the Early Years Model in Greater Manchester, working alongside the leaders from health and early years’ education to create system change. Greater Manchester has a national reputation for leadership in early intervention and in the speech and language profession and this successful bid to the DfE (for over £1.5M) demonstrates that. We are looking forward to working across faculties to combine our expertise in integrated workforce development and early communication, speech and language research. Research shows that inequality in children’s outcomes before school tends to persist across the life-course. Addressing social inequality requires a whole system approach. This project aims to accelerate the roll out of the integrated system in Greater Manchester to ensure that all children in Greater Manchester get support, if they need it, to develop language and communication.

Prof James and Dr Marshall will work with multi-agency early years speech and language leaders from all 10 Greater Manchester localities to support the leadership of integrated services. The academics will help develop an implementation action plan and include tools to coach each locality’s leadership team using relationally-based coaching, strengths-based perspectives and training in community participation and co-design. They will work closely with Julian Cox, Head of Research Policy and Strategy, and colleagues at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to use population data to shape the implementation of the Pathway to maximise it for all families.

Professor James added, “Integration of services is a priority for system transformation. We hope that this collaboration will provide new knowledge of how to create change using relationally-based approaches”.

The aim of the pathway and the Early Years Delivery Model is that more children will start school with the communication and language skills they need to be successful lifelong learners, reducing inequalities and increasing life chances for all children.

The launch of the Pathways to Talking project was at Manchester Metropolitan University on June 13.