A NORTH-EAST school has earned national recognition as a beacon for supporting children with speech, language and communication difficulties.

Northwood Primary School has become the first school in Darlington to be awarded Elklan Communication Friendly School Status.

Elklan was established in 1999 by two speech and language therapists, Liz Elks and Henrietta McLachlan, to train education staff to become more effective in supporting children with speech, language and communication needs.

Laura Robinson, Assistant Headteacher and Special Needs Co-ordinator at Northwood Primary, said: “We are so proud to be the first accredited school in Darlington. The qualification recognises the incredibly hard work of our staff who go above and beyond to support all of the children in their classes. This process has given them greater confidence in supporting some of the more vulnerable children.”

Northwood Primary School hosts the Local Authority’s “Resource Base” for children with speech, language and communication difficulties. Children from across Darlington who have profound needs attend the school for specialist support.

The Elklan process began with five members of staff gaining a formal qualification in speech, language and communication needs.

The five members of staff then disseminated their training to the rest of their colleagues, so that all children could be supported in all areas of school life.

“As we have the specialist Resource Base on site, we felt it was important for everyone on the staff to be able to understand and share best practice to support children with speech and language needs,” said Laura.

“It means we are able to embed support strategies into daily school life, maximise the outcomes for pupils, and encourage constant communication development.

“Speech and language difficulties represent the most common area of special needs in our school. The training helps pupils to widen their vocabulary, become more self-assured learners, and more confident with expressing their thoughts, opinions and feelings.”

Northwood Primary, which is part of Lingfield Education Trust, is now working with Darlington Borough Council’s education department to offer communication training to other schools in the area.

Nick Blackburn, chief executive of the Trust, said: “We are extremely proud to have one of our schools leading the way in such an important area of education, and having an impact on the lives of children across the Darlington area.”

Before the lockdown, the school was inundated with requests for the training, covering most of the primary schools in the borough.

“Councillor Jon Clarke, Cabinet Member for Children & Young People, said: “I am delighted that Northwood has achieved ‘Communication Friendly School’ status. It is true reflection of the school’s commitment to excellence in this area and we will continue to support the school to develop their work in supporting Darlington children with this need.”