What inspired us to create Chatta?

“Poor language and communication development in under-5s is a growing issue. It’s a real concern for us and that is why I am here today.”

The above statement reflects a concern shared by many of the early years professionals who joined us in Hull today for the launch of chatta. It’s an issue that has recently been recognised by Save the Children who found that 75% of primary school teachers see children arriving in reception class struggling to speak in full sentences, read (81%) or even follow simple instructions (65%). These are very stark and worrying figures.

In an era of unprecedented evidence around what works – informed by practitioners themselves – there is no excuse for implementing the wrong strategies. The evidence tells us that a focus on communication and language development is a critical aspect of early years pedagogy. The Education Endowment Fund’s toolkit concludes that “communication and language have a relatively low cost but high impact, with children making approximately six months’ additional progress over the course of a year.” In other words, we need to place the focus on helping and enthusing our children to talk and interact as early as possible. The toolkit goes on to tell us that “children’s language development benefits from approaches that explicitly support talking, verbal expression, modelling language and reasoning.” We have ensured that these aspects underpin chatta.

Everyone in the room today shared the belief that children have an innate enthusiasm for the world around them. Almost without exception, most youngsters are highly intrigued by their environment and thrive through interaction with both adults and other children. Yet, as a nation, we are increasingly seeing children retreat into their shells. Too many are lacking the opportunities to engage with adults, to reflect on their activities, and to pursue their natural inquisitiveness. Sadly, that does not bode well for children’s future learning and life chances.

That is why we are passionate about finding a solution. It has been a real privilege to work with so many settings in Hull on the development of chatta – a programme that provides the necessary training resources, the technology and the materials to enable practitioners to do what they do best – bring out the enthusiasm and joy of learning that rests in all children. chatta is grounded in the evidence-base for high quality learning and draws on technology to help children, parents and practitioners alike to interact, reflect, and capture progress.

Using technology in an informed and impactful way matters greatly, and was much discussed today. Technology can be a force for good but, if used poorly, it can stifle development. Our learning – and again, the influence of research – has ensured that, rather than being a passive tool for learning, chatta’s use of technology opens up a whole new world of interaction and inspiration. This hot topic will be the focus of our next blog…..

Chris Williams is Director of chatta & an experienced early years’ practitioner.

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