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Student speech development slowed by lockdowns

Primary schools are helping students recover from speech development delays and learning loss brought on by Victoria’s extended lockdowns.

Valerie Lobry, principal of Cohuna Consolidated School in northern Victoria, said she had hired speech pathologists for extra support to address a noticeable progress gap after months of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools are helping students recover learning loss after rolling lockdowns.

Schools are helping students recover learning loss after rolling lockdowns.Credit:Lyn Osborn

“We have noticed there’s an impact on speech development with younger kids. It’s a lot of the kids who were in foundation last year,” Ms Lobry said.

“A number of schools have got speech pathology-in-school programs and that’s helping and a lot of people are getting more in addition to our usual speech pathology access.

“We’ve got speech pathologists upskilling teachers and doing observations in class. We have the programs in place I believe to help the children and maintain their progress.”

Professor Angela Morgan, head of speech and language at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and speech pathologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital, said the limited interactions brought on by isolation had affected language learning in many young children, while speech may have already been a challenge for children with genetic or developmental conditions.

“Now that we’ve noticed the problems, which people are now identifying, if we can quickly act to provide that extra support, then that’s fantastic to help get them back on the right trajectory,” she said.

Professor Morgan said not addressing language issues could have broader effects on a child’s education and mental health.

“Children with speech problems are two to three times more at risk of other literacy issues, that is reading and spelling and language issues,” she said.

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