Onthank ECC celebrates becoming Communication Friendly

Onthank Early Childhood Centre (ECC) has become the first establishment in East Ayrshire to be awarded Communication Friendly status, meaning it has shown a commitment to promoting the development of speech, language and communication skills for all children and young people.

The East Ayrshire Communication Friendly Environment accreditation programme aims to give staff within education establishments the knowledge, skills and resources to support the language and communication needs of the children and young people they teach.

Onthank was the first centre to pilot this approach and following a successful accreditation visit in May, it held a celebration event this week to mark its achievement. A further seven ECCs have now embarked on this journey and hope to achieve Communication Friendly status within the next year. Eight primary schools and specialist provisions have identified this approach as one of their key improvement areas over the next 18-24 months, and a secondary school has also expressed an interest in developing this approach for the secondary environment.

It is expected that once achieved, each establishment will work to maintain their achievement and will engage in a re-accreditation process within 2-3 years of the initial award.

Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning, said: “All children and young people should have access to environments which foster, support and develop their language and communication skills. The early years are a critical period in a child’s life for learning language and communication skills. Early learning and childcare settings have important roles in helping these skills develop. Studies have shown that the most important characteristic of effective early learning and childcare settings is high quality staff-child interactions, and that the advantage of attending these settings lasts until secondary age, with better attainment, social skills and self-regulation.

“Whether a child or young person has a communication difficulty or not, it’s vital that we have methods in place to help them communicate more effectively, and to support their learning, attainment and life-long outcomes. I congratulate Onthank ECC on gaining this accreditation and look forward to hearing about many of our other establishments reaching this important goal in the near future.”

In conjunction with the theme of Communication Friendly Environments, the Council is planning to hold a ‘No Screen Time Day’ on Wednesday 20 November across all of its early learning and childcare settings and schools.

Screen time and its effects on development has been an issue of interest for some time now, and there is evidence to suggest that increased screen time can have a negative effect on attention, speech and listening skills; children’s weight, movement and cognitive abilities; as well as behavioural, social and emotional issues.

It’s hoped that No Screen Time Day will raise awareness of the positives of reducing screen time and increasing social face-to-face interactions, which are particularly crucial for early language development.