Skip to main content

Become a Collaborator on this Big Idea?



Speech and Language Consultancy Project

The Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA) funded consultancy hours with a local speech and language therapist to support schools and settings to audit their practice and make improvements across 12 key areas.


Head Teachers / School Leaders, School Teachers, Settings & Early Years Practitioners

Aimed at

Early Years Foundation Stage, KS1


Early Years, Language Development


CPD, Whole School

Why was the project needed?

After implementing the learning from the Communication Champion Training, some schools and settings reported feeling unsure of what to do next to continue to improve their speech and language practice. Some communication champions said that they had made all of the ‘quick wins’ but now they would appreciate some more tailored advice and guidance to take the development of their school or setting to the next level.



What happened and what was the impact?

The NOA procured the services of speech and language therapy company Communicate & Care to work with local schools and settings on a one-to-one consultancy basis. Each school and setting were offered 4 X 90–120-minute consultancy sessions over 2 academic terms and asked to complete a bespoke pre-project audit that had been designed by the consultant. Details of the sessions content is listed below:  

Session 1: Review of pre-project audit findings. Deep dive into self-assessment and supporting evidence to ensure an accurate reflection of practice has been captured. Discussion of findings to decide on two ‘areas of focus’.  

Session 2: Collaborative session to explore the first area of focus. Communicate to offer consultancy expertise and guidance to challenge and support actions and improvements as necessary. 

Session 3: Collaborative session to explore the second area of focus. Communicate to offer consultancy expertise and guidance to challenge and support actions and improvements as necessary. 

Session 4: In partnership with each school and setting, Communicate  to create an ‘Action and Improvement Plan’ for the next academic year, detailing the key findings from the pre-project audit, the improvements made thus far, the support and advice given and the recommended next steps for 2021/22 to continue to drive improvements forward. A post project audit will also be completed. 


Thirteen schools and 3 settings signed up to the original consultancy project, with 11 schools and 3 settings completing all 4 sessions.

Analysis of the pre and post audit findings and subsequent audit scores suggests that, after completing the 4 consultancy sessions, the average audit score increased by 14.5%; this is equal to 5.2 audit points per setting. The largest increase in score was made by a school who increased their audit scores by 9 points. The project also saw one Early Years setting hit the maximum possible audit score of 36 points; 100%.  

The most popular chosen areas of focus were:

  • Setting culture
  • Pupils
  • Staff
  • Primary Caregivers


What did and didn't work?

This project began in January 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic when additional pressure on schools and settings was at an all-time high. This meant that some participants did struggle to find the time to attend their consultancy sessions and action the suggested interim activities. The results of this were evident in the diverse range of post audit scores captured. Nevertheless, the majority of communication champions did remain very committed and engaged in this project and the impact measured, alongside the feedback we have received, has been extremely positive.  

One participant said, “ I think it would be good to have a further set of sessions planned to develop our work even further”.  

In response to the above, and similar comments like it, the NOA are currently running a Consultancy Extension Project which provides schools and settings with an additional two follow-on consultancy sessions, as well as up to £2000 of funding, to support their current ‘Action & Improvement Plans’.  

How did you measure success?

The success of this project has primarily been measured by an increase in the post project audit scores (in comparison to the pre-project audit scores) and by levels of engagement.  

As previously mentioned, 14 out of the 16 participants completed all 4 of their consultancy sessions and the average audit scores increased by 14.5% (5.2 audit points).   

However, it is also important to note that whilst some settings increased their audit score by up to 9 points and showed considerable improvements across multiple audit areas, 50% of participants only increased their audit score by 2 points or less, indicating lesser progress. Whilst we know that any improvements to practice or provision are of course positive, the diversity seen in the amount of progress made by each school and setting does indicate that engagement varied. This was also echoed in feedback from the consultant.  


Ingredients For Success

To run this project successfully, it was imperative to source a well-regarded speech and language consultant with the knowledge and expertise needed to work with the Early Years sector, and the capacity needed to deliver the four planned sessions. We were also very fortunate that the company who won this tender also delivered our Communication Champion Training; therefore, in some instances, the consultant already had an established relationship with the participants. This made building rapport easier, and it also meant that the consultant understood the participants pre-existing knowledge and understanding of children’s speech and language development.  

Another important factor in this project was the creation of the project audit tool. Whilst we did explore using pre-made audits from other reputable companies, we concluded that a bespoke audit tool would be much more fitting for our cohort. As a result, we commissioned its design from the tendered company.  

Is the Project Complete or Ongoing

The original Consultancy project is complete, but the Consultancy Extension project is on-going. 

How is the Project Sustainable

To ensure sustainability in the short term, it was decided that two members of staff would be asked to attend the consultancy sessions – one member of the schools/setting’s senior leadership team and one communication champion. This was so that:  

  • The knowledge and expertise gained from these sessions did not sit with one single person (in case that person left the organisation).  
  • If one person was unwell or unable to attend a session, the flow of sessions would not be disrupted. 


We also felt it was important to include a member of the organisations senior leadership team so that we had the required authority present who could influence whole setting change as well as policy.  

To ensure long term sustainability, we ensured that each settings SMART goals were realistic, achievable, and recorded in the end of project ‘Action & Improvement Plan’. Schools and settings were then encouraged to integrate this into their School Improvement Plan (or suchlike) and share this with their wider colleagues.  

In addition, we are also hopeful that the new Consultancy Extension Plan with additional grant funding, will support long term sustainability by allowing schools and settings the funding needed, to bring about further long-term change. 

What are the Long Term Impacts

Long term we hope to see:  

  • More children reaching expected outcomes in speech, language and communication early learning goals (ELGs) and this will be shown in the settings WellComm results and end of year data. 
  • Speech, language and communication best practice embedded into School Improvement Development Plans.  
  • All staff having a shared understanding of the importance of speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and a clear view on how they can improve their own personal practice.


Through the new Consultancy Extension Project, we also hope to see new evidence of long-term and sustained improvements when the schools and settings are re-audited in June 2022. 

Estimated Costs

In total, this project cost £25,000 (a £1000 one-off cost for the audit tool, admin and coordination, plus £1500 per school/setting for the 4 consultancy sessions and interim support).

Both strands of the consultancy project (the original project and the extension) required participation from two members of staff. The Norwich Opportunity Area suggested that one of these staff members was a trained ‘Communication Champion’ and the other, was member of the senior leadership team. Therefore, for each meeting (4 in the original project and 2 in the extension project), these staff were required to take time out of their day-to-day role. Over the course of the two projects, this equated to between 8.5 and 10.5 hours, plus the time needed to work on their targets and complete their funding form.

In addition, the cost per school to participate in each project was:

£1500 for the original project
£350 for the extension project
Up to £2000 of grant funding

Each of these payments were funded by the Norwich Opportunity Area.

The consultancy offer from the NOA was one of the most beneficial projects I have used, and I felt as a school team we made so much progress, even with the challenges of Covid.

Feedback from a participant in the Speech and Language Consultancy project

Area Most Impacted

Early Years

Language & Communication


School Readiness

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Speech and Language Consultancy Support at St Clements Hill Primary Academy

The Impact of the Consultancy Project on Little Squirrels Play Forest

Next steps to do something similar yourself

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

This is an example document of the audit tool created for the project:

Champions and contacts



Hub Contact Details

Emma Ferris, Clinical Director & Lead Speech and Language Therapist


Norwich Opportunity Area Team
Norwich Opportunity Area Team
Have your say

If you've got any thoughts and ideas of how this approach could be improved or an positive impact it's had for you, add them below

Login or register now to post any comments