Shining a light on outstanding work in speech and language

Tania's note: Malcolm has escaped from the usual Friday columnist slot to reflect on a wonderful awards ceremony that he and I attended last week and at which he was a judge, honouring the work of speech and language teams across the country...

Malcolm writes: I had the great pleasure this year to receive an invitation to be a judge in the 2015 Shine a Light Awards. The awards took place last week in London and what a positive and uplifting experience it was.

While the current system of support for children with communication needs is far from perfect, there are outstanding professionals across the country who are excelling in making a tangible difference to the life chances of our future generations. Too often their work goes unrecognised.

Every day, children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) attend nursery, school and college and are supported by professionals who are dedicated to improving the lives and outcomes of the individuals in their care. Every week, in special schools, mainstream classrooms, clubs and groups across the country, these professionals go above and beyond to make a difference. As a result, every year, many children and young people with communication needs across the country are able to make the progress they deserve.

The Shine a Light Awards, run by Pearson, in partnership with The Communication Trust, honours individuals, teams, campaigns, communication-friendly settings and communities that have excelled in their support of children and young people’s communication, particularly for those with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). It was also my honour and privilege to present the Young Person of the Year Award to a remarkable and inspiring young man, Jonathan Middleditch.


SAL 2015 - Young Person winner Jonathan Middleditch
Host, David Baddiel with Young Person of the Year award, Jonathan Middleditch.

Jonathan, a pupil at Moor House School in Oxted, Surrey, was diagnosed with severe specific language impairment, dyspraxia, dyslexia and dyscalculia, resulting in hard to understand speech. He received the Shine a Light award for his courage and determination to achieve incredible heights despite having severe and complex speech, language and communication difficulties.

Jonathan has achieved two GCSEs and through his ability to explain his skills and experience with confidence in an interview, gained a place on an agriculture course at a mainstream college. In addition, Jonathan became an integral part of Moor House School’s bid to successfully apply for a £90,000 grant to develop a specialist system to enable other pupils to access support. He also has a tractor and trailer licence and achieved functional skills qualifications in English and maths.

Jonathan is justifiably, incredibly proud of having achieved more than he ever dreamed was possible and the involvement of the professionals including his Speech and Language Therapists was outstanding. I was also my pleasure to present a highly commended award to James Curtis, an inspirational advocate for deaf children and young people.

David Baddiel with Bev Crisp
David Baddiel with Bev Crisp

Another standout individual winner was Bev Crisp from Whitby and Moors Children’s Centre was acknowledged for her hard work to develop an early-years intervention programme, Building Blocks for Language. Despite working full-time as an early-years practitioner and family support worker, Bev has used all her spare time over the past year, weekends, evenings and holidays to focus on the programme, supporting the needs of two-year-olds identified with SLCN in North Yorkshire by working closely with families.

tania and malcolm
Tania with Malcolm at the awards

The awards also recognised schools such as Aerodrome Primary Academy in Croydon (Primary School of the Year) for their whole-school holistic approach to communication, ensuring all members of staff - from the headteacher to the caretaker - have a strong understanding of speech, language and communication development and SLCN.

Hampstead School in London (Secondary School/College of the Year) demonstrated their commitment to SLCN across the whole school and ran events such as No Pens Day Wednesday, an initiative which encourages schools and settings to put down their pens and to run a day of speaking and listening activities, and a variety of different communication based weeks to benefit their pupils (the next one is on 7th October)

Holy Trinity Primary School in Yorkshire (Communication Commitment School of the Year Award) highlighted their commitment to communication as part of everyday practice and spreading the word not just within school but encouraging communication outside of the school gates also.

In total the event's host, the comedian David Baddiel presented 20 awards (winners and highly commended) including the Talk About Team, Norfolk Community Health & Care NHS Trust, who were awarded the Community Friendly Award, and I CAN’S Talk About Talk programme, which took home the award for the SLCN Innovation.

norfolk nhs trust
Community Friendly Winners, Norfolk NHS Trust

The Talk About Team picked up an award for their project that trained early-years practitioners to improve the communication skills of young children in Norfolk and I CAN won for their innovative training and tutoring programme Talk About Talk, which develops young people's communication skills by enabling them to co-deliver communication awareness training to organisations, either in the criminal justice system or those that may offer employment or volunteering opportunities.

In addition to these awards, Pearson awarded Lord David Ramsbotham GCB CBE the Pearson Outstanding Achievement Award for his transformational impact on SLCN and activity related to the Children and Families Act.

Lord Ramsbotham’s time as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector first introduced him to speech and language issues amongst those who are detained and this started a commitment to support and find solutions for those individuals and the professionals that work with them. He is passionately committed to ensuring that SLCN are identified and supported and has been chair of the All Party Parliamentary group on speech and language difficulties since 2007. Lord Ramsbotham has been an amazing champion for the issue, achieving a reversal of initial suggestions that the SEN provisions do not apply to young people in the justice system.

The Shine a Light Awards are a key fixture for the speech and language sector as they reflect a range of best practice and innovative work taking place across the country, bringing this to life in a truly inspirational way.  At a time when early years, health, education and SEN services are going through significant reforms, Shine a Light focuses attention on what can be achieved through expertise, sheer determination and never giving up on children and young people’s potential.

Visit for a full list of the winners.

Malcolm Reeve

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