Identifying the Speech, Language and Communication Needs of Enlisted Service Personnel in the British Army An Extended Research Proposal
Background Reports indicate that up to 50% of enlisted service personnel in the British Army have a reading age of 11 years old or below, and generally have low levels of academic attainment. There is also evidence to suggest that a significant proportion of this population have come from areas of socioeconomic deprivation. Links have been made between socioeconomic status and a higher incidence of speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) which, in turn, have a compounding effect on school readiness, literacy, academic attainment, socio-emotional development, and employment outcomes. The Armed Forces have currently have policies addressing Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) and literacy and numeracy, however no policy addressing the potential underlying cause of SLCN exists. Research Questions The primary aim of the research proposed is to establish whether there is a significant proportion of enlisted service personnel within the British Army with SLCN. Further questions are focused on the instructional staff, considering awareness and knowledge of SLCN and current practices regarding the identification, management and support of vulnerable recruits. Method Quantitative and Qualitative methods will be used in order to address these questions. 50 recruits from Army Foundation College Harrogate will be assessed using a language assessment to ascertain overall language performance. Results will be stratified against information pertaining to socioeconomic background, literacy ability, and educational attainment. In addition, current practice during training sessions will be observed and instructional staff will be interviewed with the purpose of gaining insight into the complex operational requirements and pressures of introducing additional support during Basic Training. Implications Identifying the prevalence and nature of SLCN in this population, in addition to ascertaining current knowledge and practices of instructional staff, will provide rationale for future research and policy regarding the implementation of additional support. Removing, alleviating, or supporting communication barriers will provide young people with pre-enlistment vulnerability the opportunity to fully engage with their training. This will deliver sustainable skills through training programmes, and have the benefit of improving job performance, career progression, and operational capability during their time in the forces, and in subsequent civilian life. Ultimately, such research will benefit the Armed Forces financially.