Assessment Tools

To identify underlying speech, language and communication difficulties, it is suggested that staff from the learning support department, in conjunction with subject staff / class teachers, complete a speech, language and communication checklist. Specific areas of need may be identified, individual and/or possible group targets set and then appropriate strategies put into place.

At the primary stage speech, language and communication difficulties are more prevalent and often easier to identify, especially children with expressive language difficulties.  (Please refer to the resources section: Identification of pupils with SLCN: Primary and Secondary Inclusion Development Programme: teaching and supporting pupils with speech, language and communication needs (2011)).

At the secondary stage speech, language and communication needs may be masked by literacy difficulties and/or may be presented in the following ways:

  • Poor self-esteem - children and young people become more aware of the difference between their own and other peers' performance and ability levels.

  • Problems in the areas of attention, concentration, distractibility, persistence, compliance and general self- regulation of behaviour

  • Poor organisational skills- moving around school, organising equipment, following timetables, completing and sequencing tasks and organising work/ homework re: deadlines

  • Lacking an overview of what are required- new routines in structured and unstructured settings/ social rules

  • Weak understanding of vocabulary (academic/ curriculum) and therefore lack understanding of different curriculum concepts

  • Poor literacy skills that limit both access to written curriculum and ability to record work

  • Weak social understanding limiting peer relationships and interactions

  • Vulnerability - can find it difficult to negotiate reason, infer meaning, understand non literal language, understand jokes etc.

  • Difficulty making sense of concepts in the curriculum due to faulty understanding of the relationships between groups of words and concepts

  • Speed of processing language - "keeping pace"

  • Time to think about how to communicate and what to say

  • Conversation can become a very negative experience

Observation-based assessment

Evidence of subsequent school-based intervention and monitoring is essential prior to any referral to an external specialist, for example, Speech and Language Therapist, Specialist Advisory Teacher: SLCN or Educational Psychologist.

Schools might wish to choose one or more of the following observational checklists for speech and language difficulties

  • The school-age SLCN Inclusion Development  Programme(IDP): teaching and supporting pupils with speech, language and communication needs (DVD or National Strategies website (2011)


  • Language for Learning across the Curriculum. Hayden, S. and Jordan, E. (2004) Language for Learning

  • Whole class observations pages 28-29

  • Quick observation assessment pages 30-32


  • Language for Learning in the Secondary School: A practical guide for supporting students with speech, language and communication needs Hayden S. and Jordan, E. (2012): Routledge.

  • Key indicators of SLCN page 35-6

  • Observation-based assessment page 37-9

  • Identifying SLCN in Secondary Schools: observation- based checklist, SEND: Teaching Support Team ( please see resources section).

The Communication Trust has recently developed some progression tools and they will be available for ages 4-11 years. Earlier years are in the process of being developed.