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Past event Part of series: President’s Roundtable Seminar Series

President Roundtable Seminar Series: The Role of Early Language Development and Social Mobility

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Lead: Iram Siraj OBE, Professor of Child Development and Education, University of Oxford

BERA Presidential Roundtables provide compelling research reviews offering a state-of-the-art position on topics that are of interest to researchers, practitioners, policy makers and wider society. Each Presidential Roundtable results in a clear statement of the evidence in the field and implications for educational policy and practice. It is hoped that the statements will be a key reference point over several years, subject to periodic review and updating. The roundtables will also be used to promote engagement and dialogue across as many stakeholders as possible.

Substantial research evidence links good language and literacy development with long-term achievements in education, better social-emotional skills, good health, improved employment prospects and more opportunities for social mobility. Conversely, poor language skills and literacy are associated with poorer education, skills, health, employment and higher risks of offending.

Future employment trends, within the context of growing AI and less manual labour, mean children becoming young adults in the mid-2030s will encounter challenges which require even better communication and critical thinking skills.

It is now widely accepted that the early years of a child’s life lay the fundamental foundations for language competence: it is a period of rapid brain development. The language children hear, and the people with whom they engage, leaves a strong imprint on their speech, language skills and cognitive development. These can be improved later in life, but later means more expensive interventions.

If we are to address the main factors which promote or inhibit language development in young children, we must consider some key proximal factors. This means shining a light on best research evidence and practice, resources for home learning environments, parent support, the skills of the pre-school, primary and specialist language workforce, early identification and interventions.

Our paper will focus sharply on research evidence, policy and practice, and will engage with the most important matters for the early years — on what we know supports language and communication development and identify the key gaps and priorities.

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Iram Siraj, Professor

Professor at University of Oxford & University of Maynooth

Iram has an international reputation for longitudinal research and policy expertise, she has co-directed a number of influential studies, including the Effective Provision of Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE, DfE, 1997-2015)...


Profile picture of Cassie Buchanan OBE
Cassie Buchanan OBE

Executive Headteacher at Charles Dickens Primary School

Cassie Buchanan is the executive headteacher of Charles Dickens Primary School and Nursery based in Southwark, London and the CEO of The Charter Schools Educational Trust, a growing trust of secondary and primary schools in South London. Charles...

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Jean Gross CBE

Author and Independent Consultant

Jean Gross was formerly England’s Communication Champion for children and young people, responsible for promoting the importance of good language skills. She chaired the 2018 ‘Bercow: Ten Years On’ independent review of services for...

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Sandra Mathers, Dr

Principal Investigator, Senior Researcher at Department for Education

Sandra is known nationally and internationally for policy-relevant research on early years education and care (ECEC), with a strong focus on educational inequality. Her experience includes longitudinal studies (Millennium Cohort Study, A Better...

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