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Community Communication Champions

A one-year project using a local community-based team of practitioners to support parents in developing their child’s early communication skills at home.


Childminders, Head Teachers / School Leaders, Local Authorities, Parent and Toddler/Community Group Leaders, Pastoral and Support Staff, School Teachers, Settings & Early Years Practitioners, Trusts

Aimed at

Early Years Foundation Stage, KS1


Community Support, Early Years, Language Development


Student/Family Support

Why was the project needed?

Anecdotally, stakeholders told us that the parents who need the most support can be reluctant to engage in group sessions and are unlikely to travel far when they do. The Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA) commissioned research with parents in Norwich to find out how they felt about supporting their child’s early speech, language and communication, the availability of support, take-up of the funded childcare offer, and the idea to provide a kit called the Springboard Box, containing items to promote more language interaction in the home. 

The findings told us that: 

  • Parents in Norwich report a lack of speech and language support groups across the area.
  • Families would welcome a resource box.
  • Families would like more advice on how to support their children’s speech, language and communication skills.
  • Families would like advice on where to seek help and the referral route for speech therapy.

What happened and what was the impact?

The NOA recruited four Community Communication Champions (CCCs) to make introductions with parents least likely to engage with support and to encourage and accompany them to group speech and language sessions in their local neighbourhoods. Once the Community Communication Champion (CCC) team was established, speech and language training provider Elklan was chosen to deliver the group speech and language sessions, known as ‘Let’s Talk at Home’. After parents completed this 6-week course, they would be provided with a box of Early Years resources to support their child’s developing speech and language. This was known as a ‘Springboard Box’. 

The CCC team began their role by networking in target wards in Norwich; Wensum, University, Mile Cross and Catton Grove (each CCC was assigned to one ward). These wards were highlighted as having high levels of deprivation and need by Norwich City and  Norfolk County Councils so were chosen as pilot areas for this project. The CCC team met with local community leaders, local schools and early years settings, Library staff, Health Visiting Teams and an array of Local Authority teams such as the Community Focus Officers. This helped each CCC build a picture of the presenting need in each of their target areas. 

The team set up a series of ‘drop-in’ sessions for parents, in local libraries and Early Years settings. Sessions provided parents with an opportunity to talk to a CCC one to one about any concerns they had regarding their pre-school child’s speech and language development and access support. Sessions were advertised through a variety of channels including pre-established parent and toddler groups, the CCC Facebook page, local libraries and CCC events and sessions, but most successfully via the local schools and settings themselves, particularly when the drop-ins were held on their site. 

The CCCs aim was to recruit parents of pre-school children living in these wards for the Let’s Talk at Home Elklan sessions. Through a formal commissioning process, Elklan were chosen to deliver their Lets Talk at Home speech and language course for parents. The CCC team set up a referral process so that educators and practitioners working in schools, settings, health visiting, the Early Childhood and Family Service and social services, could refer families in need of speech and language support directly to them, as well as via discussion at ‘drop-in’ sessions. This proved a much more successful approach to engagement, and it allowed the CCC team to sign up a greater number of families to the Let’s Talk at Home courses in a shorter space of time. The CCC team also offered to meet with families prior to the course starting, to get to know them and their children. This helped the team build trust with parents who would normally not engage with this type of support. 

The Elklan course itself was a 6-week programme which ran in a local community venue in each ward three times between Spring 2019 and Spring 2020 – 12 courses in total. The original plan was to deliver 16 courses up to Summer 2020 but unfortunately due to Covid-19, the remaining sessions had to be cancelled. Virtual delivery was explored but agreed not viable given the nature of the work and families involved. Each Let’s Talk at Home session was 1 hour long and was led by a local speech and language therapist from East Coast Community Healthcare (also a trained Elklan tutor) and a member of the CCC team. The expectation was that the parent and child attended the session together. 

Session 1 was a baseline and settling in session. Sessions 2-5 involved introducing parents to four key messages/strategies that would support their child’s speech and language development, and session 6 was a review session. The CCCs and Elklan Tutors coached parents to share each key message as they played with their child. The parents then identified a time when they would implement each message at home and left each session with a postcard and a magnetic puzzle piece, which acted as a visual reminder of that week’s message. 

At the end of each 6-week course, families that had attended the majority of the Elklan sessions received a Springboard Box containing Early Years resources. These resources were all chosen by Elklan and the CCC team for their versatility and ability to be used in everyday play at home to encourage children’s speech and language development. The resources were used in each of the Let’s Talk at Home sessions so that parents became familiar with how they could be used. The CCC team organised the ordering, collation and distribution of these boxes at the end of the Elklan sessions and where possible gathered feedback from parents on the Springboard Boxes some weeks later via a short questionnaire.

What did and didn't work?

Innovative, community-based approaches to encourage parents to support their pre-school child’s speech, language and communication development are successful providing those undertaking this work are well embedded in the local community and part of a long-term offer that builds trust through organisations and groups that parents already know. 

Despite this project’s short timescales (1.5 years) and the impact of Covid-19, the CCC team still managed to engage with a large number of families across our four target wards. Upon reflection, this was due to the quick establishment of the CCC referral route, which allowed practitioners from a multitude of professions to refer families into the service easily, and because of the huge number of local links that were made in communities, with a wide variety of organisations including schools and settings. Through trialling a large range of approaches to parental engagement and building on the back of trusted establishments where possible, the CCC team were able to refine what worked in Norwich as the project evolved. 

Please see Community Communication Champions in Norwich: An Evaluation conducted by the University of East Anglia, for all project wisdom and recommendations (link to document provided in resources section).

How did you measure success?

Across the 12 Elklan Let’s Talk at Home courses that ran, 78 families engaged, and their attendance always exceeded our target of 75%. Elklan suggested that the attendance we received was “exceptionally high for parents of preschool children”. In part this may have been down to the Springboard Box incentive.

Evidence of impact was collated via a parent questionnaire and observations of changed interaction between the parent and their child at the beginning and end of each course. Analysis of the questionnaire results suggested that the impact of the course had been very positive with over 90% of parents saying that the course had been ‘helpful’, ‘very helpful’ or ‘extremely helpful’ for a range of important parameters. The observations of changed interactions also suggested that at the end of the course, compared to the start: 

  • Parents were waiting a lot more. This means the children were given the opportunity to lead the play and initiate communication. 
  • Parents were commenting more on what their child was doing or showing an interest in. 
  • Parents were adding more words and ideas to things their child said. 
  • Parents were not only using more words but they were adding different types of words (a key message conveyed to parents). 
  • Children were using longer utterances. 


Unfortunately, with regards to the Springboard Box, the response to the questionnaire that was sent to parents was limited and it was difficult to draw any lasting conclusions on the success of this intervention. Nevertheless, from the responses the team did receive, it was evident that most parents were very grateful for the Springboard Box and it had been a welcome addition to their home learning environment.


Ingredients For Success

Local training opportunities and support for parents that is accessible, engaging, well incentivised (where needed) and long-term. Where possible, this should link into and build upon existing structures in the community where parental trust is already established. For example, through schools, settings, community groups and libraries.

Is the Project Complete or Ongoing

The NOA CCC project is now complete.

How is the Project Sustainable

Unfortunately, the NOA CCC project and the Elklan Let’s Talk at Home course with accompanying Spring Board Box relied on considerable funding to operate and therefore would not be sustainable in the form used in this project. However, the skills gained by the CCC team during the project and the subsequent learning documented in the UEA evaluation report, could be shared with other community-based teams or leaders looking to organise similar projects in the future.

What are the Long Term Impacts

It is difficult to predict the long term impacts of this project but we believe the learning and input received by educators, practitioners, parents and children will have a very beneficial ongoing impact.

The UEA researchers who compiled Community Communication Champions in Norwich: An Evaluation (see link to full document in resources section) had this to say about the impact and legacy of the project:

The impact of the CCC roles has been far broader than expected. The legacy of their work by providing CPD, cascading of training and contributing to the Talk and Play Everyday project will continue after their contracts cease. Most notably evidenced through the case studies was the profound impact on those families and professionals that CCCs worked directly with, particularly where relationships were built and support was continued over time… A key approach of ‘how to reach’ parents was partnership and linking up with a range of local leaders, volunteer organisations, community workers and health and social services, who provided a trusted partner and access to families through a variety of avenues.

Estimated Costs

Elklan Contract: £45,279. Venue hire, refreshments and resources for all sessions: £4746. Springboard Boxes: Approximately £12,000.

One family where the parent was very chatty with adults instead of the child, made a lot of progress by the end; The child was interacting with mum more because she was giving him more attention, so the messages have really helped there.  

Pre-school has reported noticing changes within friendship groups because of the course [Home Learning Programme], two non-verbal children were then playing together more at pre-school and consequently their parents then started doing activities together outside of the course or pre-school. Similarly, two children who had difficulties with social interaction bonded and then spent the whole day together at the zoo on our celebration day.

Feedback from Community Communication Champions

Area Most Impacted


Language & Communication

School Readiness

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

ELKLAN - Let's Talk at Home Course

Springboard Boxes - supporting early language development in the home

Next steps to do something similar yourself

These are a list of Big Idea resources that you can use to implement in your setting:

If you are interested in tips and advice around supporting parents with speech and language, read the evaluation report of the Community Communication Champions project by the UEA:

Here is the Let’s Talk at Home leaflet from Elklan:

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Preparing for Literacy here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Improving Literacy in KS1 here

Champions and contacts


Hub Contact Details

Norwich Opportunity Area Team
Norwich Opportunity Area Team
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