Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Setting a good communication habit early on – by Press Officer Lynne Milford

UEA Nursery representatives with Vanessa Feltz
We all know that good communication is vital at any age, but the sooner children can get into the 'communication habit' the better. It is also very important that children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) are identified early so they can receive help and support.

Quality early years provision with an emphasis on nurturing good communication in nurseries, childminders, play groups or Children’s Centres is key. This is why we are once again looking to honour the Early Years Setting of the Year in our Shine a Light Awards 2012.

Last year, the winner was the University of East Anglia Nursery. They were praised by the judges for carrying out termly assessments of the children’s development and highlighting any children who were struggling. The nursery also uses play plans to develop specific activities and encourage the children to talk more and expand their vocabulary.

‘Story Sacks’ are taken home by parents to promote speaking and listening at home and they also provide informal parents’ open evenings for staff to interact and share information.

Staff at the nursery said: “Since winning the award we have been approached and visited by other professionals seeking advice. We were proud to be able to mention our award during our OFSTED inspection in January, when we received “Outstanding” across the board. The Vice Chancellor of the University took the time to write to the nursery, congratulating us on our achievement. All staff are extremely proud that their hard work has been recognised and it has been a real boost.”

For more information read the UEA Nursery case study here

This year, the judges are again looking for early years settings which are working hard to promote and support children’s communication. This could be:

• Prioritising speech, language and communication development in all children

• Making sure children with SLCN are quickly identified and supported

• Involving parents in supporting children to develop good speech, language and communication

• Working in partnership with other professionals and agencies to support better communication development

• Providing evidence of the impact they have made on children by changing their practices

• Investing in their staff training and development to promote excellent practice.

So, do you think you’ve got what it takes to be Early Years Setting of the Year?

We’d love to hear from you about your work and how you support children to improve their speech, language and communication. Log onto http://www.shinealightawards.co.uk/ to download an application form and good luck!

  • If you’d like to help us promote this category to others, you can download our eCommunications Toolkit here It has lots of hints and tips to make the most of your social media and email networks.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Silent Voices: Listening to Young People with Selective Mutism

Guest post by Victoria Roe, (B. Phil. Ed., MA) Vice-Chair of SMIRA (Selective Mutism Information and Research Association)

Victoria Roe
How can I listen to the experiences of young people with Selective Mutism, when they are unable to speak to strangers? That was the problem I faced in doing research for an MA at the University of Leicester in 2010.
Children with Selective Mutism (SM) speak confidently in some situations, but remain silent in others, usually outside the home. SM often starts in early chiIdhood, but, if left untreated, may persist into adulthood. I have worked with such children as a Primary teacher since 1979 and devised a programme to help them.

Although there had been quite a lot of research into SM, none of it provided accounts from those affected about what it was like to have SM and how they communicated when they could not speak.

Since interviews were not feasible, I devised a questionnaire, which allowed the young people to provide answers by selecting options and writing statements in their own words. Thirty youngsters aged 10-18 from the SMIRA membership took part, which was a good-sized sample for SM research.

The results confirmed the findings of other research, but also added new evidence about where and with whom the youngsters were able to speak and what helped or hindered their communication. Their personality profiles were positive, sensitive and caring, more than quiet and anxious.

Uniquely, the findings revealed the pain, isolation, frustration, courage and determination of the youngsters, the limiting effects of SM upon their lives and their communication strategies, including the use of electronic devices.

Their message was that they do want to talk and are not being rude when remaining silent. Acceptance and understanding helped them overcome SM.

A summary of the findings was published in ‘Young Minds’ (Summer 2012) - to read article click here.

The full research paper is available on the British Education Index at:

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Shine a Light…one award that you do want to win… Mark Beagan, Business Development Manager

There are some awards that you dream about winning – an Oscar, Noble Peace Prize, Rear of the Year.

There are some that you’d rather not win – Britain’s Got Talent, your ‘BFH’, a Darwin Award.

There are even awards you’d much prefer it if someone else won, cue the annual ‘Foot in Mouth Award’ (see here for previous winners!)

Having been involved in launching the Shine a Light 2012 awards, hopefully I can convince you that winning a ‘Shine a Light’ Award is up there with the best of them. However don’t take my word for it, just ask some of the last year’s winners.

Ask Bhaimia Mariyam from Newham Community Health. Like many other NHS departments, times have been pretty tough lately.  In spite of the many challenges, however, Bhaimia and her colleagues have managed to create one of the best SLT Teams in the country. From their point of view, winning a 2011 Shine a Light Award has helped to significantly raise their profile and, just as importantly, boost staff morale. As Bhaimia pointed out, the food was also “delicious” at the awards ceremony!

For Jack Marshall, winning the Young Person of the Year represented something else. His award was an opportunity to highlight that young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) can and do achieve just like anyone else. He moved everyone to tears at the award ceremony last year when he said "just don’t give up trying".

The best thing about winning the Early Years Award for the Nursery at Norwich University was the response from parents. As the manager, Anne Meyer, explained, staff have received lots of positive feedback from parents, who are now even more aware now of the importance of their role in supporting communication skills.

The 2012 Shine a Light Awards has 11 categories and is now open for application. We know you’re out there doing amazing things to support children’s communication development. Please apply so that we can tell everyone else www.shinealightawards.co.uk

I’ll leave you now with the immortal words of former England football manager, Steve McClaren, who said, “He (Wayne Rooney) is inexperienced, but he's experienced in terms of what he's been through.” Winner, 2007 Foot in Mouth Award.