Sal McKeown highlights some of the winners of this year’s Shine a Light awards.

I like award ceremonies, especially when they feature real people doing real jobs. For one night they don their best bib and tucker, are cosseted and treated like celebrities and a lucky few will head off clutching a trophy as a lasting souvenir.

The 2017 Shine a Light awards celebrated the good people that make a difference to the one million plus children and young people in the UK who have long-term speech language and communication needs (SLCN).

The awards are organised by Pearson, a worldwide publisher that provides educational courseware and assessment, in conjunction with The Communication Trust, a coalition of more than 50 leading voluntary sector organisations specialising in speech and language.

The awards ceremony in late March took place at Pearson’s headquarters in London and was hosted by international singing and theatre star Gareth Gates who spoke about his own experience of living with a stutter and the impact it had on his confidence:

Being able to communicate with confidence is often taken for granted but for many it is an everyday struggle. I have found my stutter crippling at times but I have learnt ways to manage my difficulties with the support of others.

There were 29 awards in 10 categories. The shortlist included schools, nurseries, individuals, commercial companies, special projects and social enterprises. Here are some of the highlights:

Greg Gilmour: living life to the full

Greg Gilmour, winner of the Young Person of the Year award, with Gareth Gates.

Greg is 23 from Bury in the north of England and won the Young Person of the Year award. He has cerebral palsy and uses an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device so successfully that the first thing people mention about him is his sense of humour.  He works as a mentor to other young people who have communication difficulties, including one AAC user in a mainstream school whom he visits once a week. He also works at 1Voice, a small national charity that supports children who use AAC and their families, and in 2016 he joined their board as a trustee.

He is also an energetic volunteer: one day a week at Bridge College in Manchester, at Leeds University where he shares his knowledge of AAC with student nurses and at Manchester Metropolitan University for AAC research projects.  As well as these duties, he has recently signed up for a mentoring course to improve his skills and attends college twice a week to study English and IT.

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

Congratulations to Gregor for his Young Person of the Year Award. His passion to help others has resulted in him confidently sharing his own life experiences, empowering children, their families and other young adults to have higher expectations of themselves and to live life to the full.

Blackpool champion

Ann Shellard, a Blackpool early years’ language consultant, was awarded the Communication Champion 2017 Award. Her commitment and support for local settings has revolutionised early years’ work in Blackpool in the north of England so that now 82 per cent of Ofsted reports inspecting early years’ provision in the area highlight speech, language and communication as a key strength.

She improved local practice by setting up an introductory training programme level speech, language and communication and a training pathway with different levels for more experienced staff to work through.

Now every children’s centre and early years’ setting in Blackpool has a named champion whose job it is to ensure best practice in communication. There has also been a steady increase in children achieving at least the expected level in listening and attention, understanding and speaking.

Shellard said:

I’m very happy to receive this award, It recognises all the hard work that’s been done, but it’s not just me. I’m part of a dedicated team who continue to have high aspirations for all our children with speech, language and communication needs.

Online games make SLCN more fun

Marble Therapy.

It’s hard work keeping children on track, practising skills but a little gamification certainly improves motivation.

Mable Therapy has an online platform where children play interactive games. They have a baseline assessment administered by speech and language therapists who identify targets. Children don’t know they are learning; they think they’re just playing games. While they have fun, the teaching staff and parents can see a difference and can support the child’s communication during and between online sessions.

The company also provides training for staff in bite-size chunks in The Learning Zone. It works well because each item links directly to the needs of the children they are working with so theory and practice come together. Every module has an assessment to check learning has taken place and staff receive a certificate of achievement.

One of the best things about Mabel Therapy is that, unlike conventional face-to-face therapy, these tele-practice sessions with a real speech therapist fit round the child, the home and the school day. To date, no child, not even those with significant social emotional and mental health needs, has missed a single session.

Mable Therapy was a joint winner of the SLCN Innovation Award with ClearCut Communication.

Moving towards restorative justice

Research has shown that 60 per cent of young people in the justice system have speech, language and communication needs so it’s good to see that County Durham Youth Offending Service (CDYOS) was praised for their communication-friendly resources which have been used with both the young offender and the victim of the crime.

ClearCut Communication’s programme Thinking about victims sets out to address offenders’ lack of empathy. In many cases, ‘those who had offended showed no remorse or understanding that they had changed the lives of others’.

The CDYOS team decided to break down the record of the victim’s experience into bite-size pieces and to provide visual support get the message across. They found that using more direct language, simpler sentence structure, images and colour-coding helped both parties — victim and offender — to understand and explain the impact of the incident on both their lives.

The programme has three broad aims: defining who the victim is, helping the young offender talk about what they have done (with the option to create a picture story) and making sure that the victim’s voice is accurately reflected.

It’s still early days for the project but between January 2016 and January 2017 they had completed 64 Thinking about victims programmes. The project has also been awarded the Restorative Justice Council’s Quality Mark.

Outstanding Twinkleboost

Caspian Jamie from Manchester was awarded the Pearson Outstanding Achievement Award. He is a speech and language therapist and one of the founders of a social enterprise called Twinkleboost.

Jamie works full time as a speech and language therapist, volunteers as a trustee for a local Autism Society, puts in 10 to 15 hours a week on Twinkleboost in term-time and works there full time in school holidays.

With funding from the BBC’s Children in Need Twinkleboost uses stories, music, drama and language games to support disadvantaged families across Greater Manchester. In the first 18 months, they have provided speech and language support to more than 1,300 individuals, picked up six awards and have recently partnered with Barnados and The Big Life Group.

Jamie has created programmes for children, delivered classes to families and schools, and built good links with children centres and other community venues.

He has a Youtube channel to encourage parents to learn more about strategies to support speech and language development in the early years, and provides regular training to five speech and language therapy assistants and 10 voluntary communication assistants.

Jamie said:

It’s such an honour to win the Outstanding Achievement Award. It’s a privilege to work on such a fantastic project with such a talented and committed team. I am incredibly passionate about the work we do at Twinkleboost and hope this award will support us to reach more families in the future.

The Shine a Light awards are important because they give recognition to people who are exceptionally dedicated and who in many cases are working as volunteers, without pay, to improve the life prospects of children and young people who struggle to understand language and express themselves.

Octavia Holland, Director of The Communication Trust, said:

Congratulations to Caspian and everyone who triumphed at the Shine a Light Awards. They have shown what can be achieved when expertise, enthusiasm and dedication is given to children and young people who struggle to communicate. These Awards highlight the very best practice that is taking place in settings across the country.

Complete list of winners – Shine a Light Awards 2017

Pearson Outstanding Achievement Award
Winner: Caspian Jamie

Early Years Setting of the Year Award
Winner: Bishop Alexander L.E.A.D. Academy, Newark-on-Trent
Highly Commended: Willows Centre for Children, Portsmouth
Highly Commended: Bright Beginnings Childcare Centre, Leeds

Primary School of the Year Award
Winner: Parkdale Primary School, Nottingham
Highly Commended: Broom Barns Community Primary School, Stevenage
Highly Commended: Hawthorn Primary School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Secondary School or College of the Year Award
Winner: Tor Bridge High, Plymouth
Highly Commended: Hanley Castle High School, Worcestershire
Highly Commended: William Ellis School, London

SEN School or Group of the Year Award
Winner: Ashmount School, Loughborough
Highly Commended: New Regent’s College PRU, Hackney, London
Highly Commended: Elm Tree Community Primary School, Lancashire
Highly Commended: Moor House School and College, Oxted

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Award
Winner: Ingfield Manor School, Billinghurst
Highly Commended: Pace, Aylesbury
Highly Commended: 1Voice — Communicating Together, Coventry

SLCN Innovation Award
Joint Winner: Mable Therapy, Leeds
Joint Winner: Clearcut Communication (part of County Durham Youth Offending Service), Durham
Highly Commended: ‘Closing The Gap’ — a project within Warwickshire County Council and South Warwickshire Foundation NHS Trust’s ‘time to talk’™ project, working in partnership with Bedworth Heath Nursery School, Warwickshire

Communication Champion Award
Winner: Ann Shellard, Early Language Consultant, Blackpool
Highly Commended: Caspian Jamie, Manchester
Highly Commended: Jane Young, Nottinghamshire

Young Person of the Year Award
Winner: Gregor Gilmore, Bury
Highly Commended: Charlotte Seth, Yorkshire
Highly Commended: Connor O’Neill, Nottingham

Communication Commitment School of the Year Award
Winner: Easton CE Academy, Bristol
Highly Commended: Knowle DGE Learning Centre, Bristol
Highly Commended: Woodmansterne Primary School, Bristol


About Contributors

Sal McKeown is a freelance journalist and author of several books, most recently Brilliant Ideas for using ICT in the Inclusive Classroom. Prior to this she was a lecturer and in the special needs team at Becta, the UK’s former government agency for technology in education.

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