Enhancing Language Development in the Early Years: Talking, Reading… and Play

This event brings together expert speakers from the Scottish Government, the third sector, and local authorities to focus on how early years practitioners can engage with children and their families to support literacy and help our least advantaged to achieve their potential.

Closing the gap in early language skills

Evidence shows that positive action in the early years plays a key role in supporting children’s language development and reducing the attainment gap. One in five children growing up in poverty in Scotland leave primary school unable to read well. A Save the Children report illustrated the impact that effective support in the early years can have on language development, noting that 'access to good-quality early learning and childcare has been shown to be one important route through which young children’s early language development can be strengthened'.

Much of the current attention on the early years is focused on the 2020 expansion of provision and underpinning that policy is the express aim to 'improve outcomes for all children, especially those who are more vulnerable or disadvantaged, and help to close the attainment gap'. Enhancing language development in the early years is key to achieving that aim. Delivery is not straightforward, however. Approaches must combine helping parents to help children, quality interaction between staff and young children, the learning environment, and effective leadership in ELC settings.  

Join Holyrood as we hear from key stakeholders in the Scottish Government, the third sector, and local authorities as we examine the evidence base for links between literacy and poverty, tools that you can use in your ELC setting, and ways of creating the right environment to enhance language development in the early years. 

Why come to this event? 

  • Learn from outstanding experts from the Scottish Government, local authorities, and the third sector 
  • Take part in an interactive workshop where you will learn about tools you can use in your ELC setting to improve language development 
  • Your chance to question all of these great people 
  • Meet other people involved in early learning and childcare and share best practice 

Who should attend

  • Nursery managers/providers
  • Local authority children and young people professionals
  • Elected representatives with an interest in education
  • Academics interested in early years
  • Anyone else interested in early learning and childcare


09:45 Registration and Refreshments

10:30 Welcome and Introduction by the Chair

Morag Alexander OBE, Chair, ELCAP; Co-Chair, Scottish Commission on Older Women; Former Chair of the Early Years Advisory Group of Children in Scotland

10:35 Session 1: Getting Language Right in the Early Years

  • The links between poverty & literacy
  • Early intervention on literacy for families facing adversity
  • The impact of play-based learning on literacy

10: 35 The Impact of Poverty on Child Development 

Children are born learners, and the cognitive and language skills they develop in their very early years are the crucial foundations of their future learning. Growing up in poverty makes it harder for children to learn, leading to stark inequalities in children’s early development, which often last throughout childhood and into adult life. This talk examines how action in the early years to support children and families can help to ensure all children achieve their full potential.

Vicky Crichton, Senior Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns Manager, Save the Children

10:55 Getting Language Right in the Early Years - Funded ELC Offer and Its Benefits for Children's Developments

  • The evidence base and policy rationale for the expansion of funded ELC to 1140 hours
  • What are we doing at a national level to create the right environment to enhance children’s language development?

Liz Levy, ELC Quality Team Leader, Scottish Government

11:15 Getting Language Right in the Early Years

ELC strategies for closing the poverty- related outcome gap in children’s cognitive development:

  • Family support through the 1140 expansion
  • Further enhanced support for children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds in order to close the gap between most and least deprived areas in Scotland.
  • Earlier ELC offer for eligible two year olds

Demet Kirac Basta, ELC Quality Policy Officer, Scottish Government

11:35 The Need For Genuine Collaboration 

There is a need for genuine collaboration to support speech language and communication development in the early years. This talk places emphasis on the links between language learning and buffers to adversity. 

Pauline Beirne, Allied Health Professionals Children and Young People Adviser, Scottish Government

11:55 Practioners' Role In Supporting Language Development

Catherine Agnew, Chief Inspector Children's Services, Care Inspectorate 

12:15 Q&A

12:25 Refreshments and Networking

12:45 Session 2: Making Literacy Fun! Tools You Can Use in Your ELC Setting

12:45 Making Literacy Fun: Practical Ways to Use Play, Stories, Songs and Rhymes to Develop Literacy

Stories, songs and rhymes are the perfect way to play – and a great way to support language development. This practical workshop will give delegates a chance to sing, rhyme and read and think about how these experiences are playful – and how this is an essential part of literacy development.

Tracy Cooper, Early Years Development Manager, Scottish Book Trust
Ruth Grindley, Early Years Digital Projects Manager, Scottish Book Trust

13:15 Q&A

13:25 Lunch and Networking

14:00 Session 3: Creating the Right Environment for Language Development

  • Maximising the opportunities to improve speech and language development
  • Tracking progress in literacy in the early years

14:00 Getting It Right For Our Kids: A High Quality, Population Led Model of Collaboration

A language enriching environment underpins the development of children's language. Collaboration between Speech and Language Therapy and our education partners can facilitate positive change in adult-child interactions; maximising language development opportunities in ELC settings and at home. 

Louise Illingworth, Senior Speech and Language Therapist, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

14:20 Approaches to Tracking and Monitoring 

Kathleen Johnston, Education Officer, Community Services: Education, Argyll and Bute Council ​
Clare Bryden, Principal Teacher for Literacy, Argyll and Bute Council 

14.40 Q&A

14:55 Chair’s Closing Remarks

Morag Alexander OBE, Chair, ELCAP; Co-Chair, Scottish Commission on Older Women; Former Chair of the Early Years Advisory Group of Children in Scotland

15:00 Close of Event

*The agenda is subject to change

Our events are CPD Certified. This event is equivalent to 3 CPD points.
A certificate is available on request post-event to all attendees.




NASUWT, 35 Young Street North Lane, Edinburgh EH2 4JD | Map


Delegate rates (excluding VAT):

  • Reduced rate: 1 place £145 + VATpp (Voluntary/charitable organisations with an annual income of less than £1m)
  • Standard rate: 1 place £245 + VAT | 2+ places £195 + VAT per place (Central government departments and agencies, local authorities, universities, colleges, NHS, police, professional associations and voluntary/charitable organisations with an annual income over £1m)
  • Private Sector rate: 1 place £295 + VAT | 2+ places £245 + VAT per place (Commercial organisations e.g. plc, Ltd, LLP)

For more information please email enquiries@holyrood.com or phone 0131 285 1635

31 January 2019



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