Gareth Gates unveiled as host for fifth Shine a Light Awards

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Gareth Gates, singer-songwriter and musical theatre star, has been revealed as the host of the 2017 Shine a Light Awards that take place in London on 23 March 2017.

The national awards scheme, run by Pearson in partnership with The Communication Trust, celebrates innovative work and excellent practice in supporting children and young people’s speech, language and communication development.

Gareth Gates, who rose to fame on the TV show Pop Idol, has spoken publicly about living with a stutter and the impact on life chances. In 2011 Gareth planned and filmed a documentary, Stop my Stutter, where he taught young people who had stammered since childhood how to use the McGuire Technique after qualifying as a speech coach and course instructor.

Pearson and The Communication Trust, a coalition of over 50 organisations dedicated to supporting children and young people’s speech, language and communication, are seeking to recognise the incredible contributions of teams, settings and individuals across England as well as the inspirational journeys of young people living with severe and complex speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

Gareth Gates said:

It is a complete honour to host these awards and I can’t wait to meet those involved in March. Too often people take speaking for granted but for many being able to communicate and converse is an everyday struggle. In the past I have found my stutter crippling, affecting my confidence greatly, but I have learnt ways to manage my difficulties with the support of others.

The fantastic work of individuals and teams that help children and young people communicate can go unnoticed but what they achieve represents a lifeline to many. I am very much looking forward to hosting the Awards and know it will be a humbling experience.

The Shine a Light Awards features a 28-strong judging panel including leading individuals in the speech, language and communication sector as well as previous Award winners from across England. Francesca Martinez — international comedian, writer and speaker who has mild cerebral palsy — has also joined the judging panel.

Francesca Martinez said:

Not everyone finds communicating easy; it can be a tough struggle for children, young people and adults alike. The pressure to be “normal” can be immense, but what does normal mean? I have cerebral palsy, something I prefer to reference as “wobbly” but that doesn’t stop me from performing whether that be acting, stand-up comedy or appearing on a panel show.

With support, I attended a mainstream school and I have managed to achieve things beyond my wildest dreams. I am delighted to be joining a stellar judging panel for the 2017 Shine a Light Awards. It is so important to recognise the achievements of those with speech and language difficulties and the families, individuals, teams and settings that support them.

The Shine a Light Awards features 10 categories including Primary and Secondary School of the Year, Special Educational Needs (SEN) School of the Year (a new category for 2017), Young Person of the Year and the Communication Champion Award.

Chris Hall, Director of Clinical Assessment at Pearson, said:

We are delighted that both Gareth Gates and Francesca Martinez are part of the 2017 Shine a Light Awards. Both Gareth and Francesca face their own hurdles when it comes to communication and represent inspirational role models of what can be achieved through determination, hard work and support.

It is vital that we raise awareness of the amazing work that is taking place up and down the country. With such dedication and high spirits, individuals, teams and settings are making a real difference to children and young people giving them the confidence and skills to achieve great things against the odds.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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