Reflections and Outcomes – SILSA one year on

Our key objective at SILSA is to enable effective support in schools for children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. How are we doing one year in?

Getting Started

Once we had formulated the initial idea of the SILSA Programme, it took well over a year of development to get it to the stage where it could be offered to schools.  That time was spent speaking with SENCOs, teachers, teaching assistants, head teachers, and speech and language therapists.  It was also used to develop training and resources, and for our own professional development.  Consequently, it felt an exciting point when we crossed the start line in September 2022 with our first intake of 16 Teaching Assistants in Portsmouth, Hampshire.


For those directly involved in the SILSA Programme it has been a successful first year.  Delivering the course has been an enjoyable experience and we have been lucky to have such an interested, motivated and enthusiastic group of teaching assistants to work with.  That feeling is shared by the participating SILSAs themselves.  They have particularly valued the training and support groups being in-person rather than online, plus being able to form relationships / a network with teaching assistants in other local schools who do a similar role.

Responses from an interim ‘SILSA so far’ review earlier this year were consistently positive with all respondents saying they were enjoying the course, learning a lot, and that they would recommend SILSA to other teaching assistants.

At the start of the programme in September 2022, the teaching assistants who were undertaking the whole programme (those who had not completed ELKLAN training previously) completed a pre-course measure of their knowledge and confidence consisting of 10 questions such as:

What are minimal pairs and how can they be used receptively and expressively?

What is meant by Tier 2 vocabulary?

How confident are you identifying children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)?

This measure was repeated at the end of the course and the results are shown below.  They show an overall 225% increase in knowledge ratings and 44% increase in confidence.  The smaller increase in confidence is worth reflecting on.  It is likely that this indicates some degree of over-confidence at the start of the course and an element of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.  For example, at the start of the course two participants rated themselves as 18/25 and 14/25 in total for confidence, yet their knowledge scores were only 4/15 and 2/15 respectively.  By the end of the course both their knowledge scores had increased to 14/15.  Their confidence scores had also increased (to 20 and 21.5), but inevitably by a lower percentage given their higher starting value.

SILSA Programme Course Knowledge and Confidence Outcomes 2022-2023

‘On the ground’ impact

From its inception, the SILSA Programme has been designed to be a practical approach that works in the real world of busy and resource stretched schools.  Therefore, it is important to look at what the impact has been ‘on the ground’ in schools as well, and again this has been positive.  For example, a therapist in our team who works in two schools where teaching assistants completed the SILSA Programme this year commented:

“I have noticed significant upskilling in knowledge and confidence in the SILSAs’ practice this academic year, this has been of great benefit to me as I feel (names of the SILSAs) are now able to manage some of the pupils needs’ without direct input from me or with minimal support.”

This practical impact, and the real world examples of change, have been a particularly rewarding aspect of the SILSA Programme over the past year.  For example:

  • The new ideas and resources that SILSAs have started bringing to share at their half-termly support and development groups.
  • Working in class, a SILSA saw the teacher becoming frustrated as they were trying to explain a comparing task to a child over and over and the child ‘just didn’t get it’. Drawing on the knowledge gained in the course, the SILSA suggested to the teacher that the difficulty could be that the child did not understand what ‘compare’ meant – and this was the case.
  • At the start of the course one SILSA felt so unconfident that she didn’t expect to be able to complete it. Last term, she accurately identified that a child in her class was likely to have undiagnosed developmental language disorder.  Subsequent specialist assessment has confirmed this and this child’s needs, and relevant support strategies, are now understood.
  • The SILSAs in infant and junior schools who spontaneously arranged to meet up near the end of the Summer term to support the transition of pupils with SLCN into Key Stage 2.
  • A SILSA who, because of her role in school, was asked to come and speak as part of a local teacher training course to explain about SLCN and the importance of recognising this within the classroom.

The Coming Year

We are delighted that schools are seeing the impact of the SILSA Programme and 100% of schools who participated in the 2022-23 programme have renewed for the coming academic year.  There is also a further course starting in Portsmouth in September 2023 and other Speech and Language Therapists are looking to provide SILSA in their area too.

There is much to reflect on and learn from the past year, and a lot of further development to come.  All training materials will have a review / refresh, we will develop further assessments and resources for SILSAs to use, we will add to the whole-school training options that schools can choose from as part of their SILSA subscription, and we will be looking at developing the SILSA Programme for other age groups as well.

So, another busy year ahead!

We would like to finish by thanking the schools and teaching assistants for their support and for investing in SILSA last year, and for helping it be such a success.

Find out more

Browse our website and send us an email at to find out more about our training options and the SILSA Programme.