Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Shining a light on schools communication by Lynne Milford, Press Officer

Communication is very much a 'buzz topic' for schools, as national education policy places more and more emphasis on children having good speech, language and communication skills. In the coming months, we will see a lot of schools introducing communication-friendly activities.

But in some schools, good communication is already close to their heart and The Communication Trust and Pearson Assessment are keen to reward them through the Shine a Light Awards 2012. The awards are an opportunity to reward and share good practice, as well as raising awareness of good speech, language and communication.

There are two school categories in the Shine a Light 2012 awards - one for primary and one for secondary schools and colleges – as well as awards for Young Person of the Year, Communication Champion and ‘Innovation Award’ among others. Judges are looking for schools where speech, language and communication development is a priority and where children with SLCN are spotted early and supported. They're also looking for schools which involve parents and work in partnership with other agencies to support children's speech, language and communication.

Watercliffe Meadow School with Vanessa Feltz
 Last year Watercliffe Meadow Primary School in Sheffield scooped the 'Communication Friendly Award – Primary Schools', receiving praise from the judges for its aim of 'getting things right from the start'.

The school places such a high priority on involving parents that staff created a series of five workshops for all families to attend, which allowed the teachers to work with the parents and children together, as well as giving them learning to take home. The school day is also designed from the child’s point of view, with a quarter of the day spent in play situations so children can practise talking in a natural setting.

To read more about Watercliffe Meadow Primary School’s success, click here.

Tricia Lang and Marie Underwood from Preston Manor School
 Preston Manor School in Wembley won the ‘Communication Friendly Award - Secondary Schools’ after impressing judges with a project demonstrating joint-working between their Speech and Language Base and the Department of English. They targeted a group of Year 7 pupils and created opportunities to promote speaking and listening as part of the curriculum. The school also took the Hello campaign to its heart, using it as an inspiration, creating a ‘Year of Communication’ noticeboard so pupils and staff could see the ‘Focus of the Week’ and the materials available.

To read more about Preston Manor’s work, click here.

Now you’ve seen what we’re looking for - does your school place a similar emphasis on pupils developing good speech, language and communication skills? Have you created innovative practices which have shown good results with your pupils? If so, you could be eligible for the Shine a Light Awards 2012. You can download an application form here.

If you’re not a school, do not despair – we have a range of other categories, including Youth Justice Award, Communication Champion and a Commissioning Award. Check out the microsite for more information.

The closing date for applications has been extended to October 10th.

Good luck!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Keep raising the issue

Annette Brooke MP
Guest blogger Annette Brooke MP (Mid Dorset and North Poole) tells us why she continues to fight on in the hope of getting better services and support for children with speech, language and communication needs and their families. She is a keen supporter of the speech and language issue, and helped The Communication Trust during the Hello campaign, the national year of communication, in 2011.

“I recently asked Sarah Teather, the former Minister of State for Children and Families, an oral question in Parliament on what more the Government can do to give better support to children with disabilities, including speech and language difficulties, through child care and in early learning centres. Sarah highlighted the publication of the draft provisions for special educational needs, which she hoped would go into the Bill next year. She said: “We are particularly looking at extending down the support and protection offered for children in the school system so that nought to fives get similar support.” She also pointed out that in the specific guidance to local authorities they highlighted the issue of making sure that they should provide more information for parents who have a disabled child.

The reason that I asked this question was my ongoing concern that, despite the campaign for ‘Every Disabled Child Matters’ and the work on speech and language difficulties following the Bercow Report – including the Hello campaign, the national year of communication run by The Communication Trust, I still find that more support is needed for children at preschool and nursery. Many years ago, I visited a nursery in Brighton which was offering mainstream provision but within this a specialist unit for children from across the town with speech and language difficulties. I was so impressed, but despite my enthusiastic local lobbying, there is no such specialist provision in Poole, Dorset. I want all children to have the best possible support without having to travel a long distance. With the prospect of new legislation for children with SEN, it seems appropriate to make sure that the calls for better approaches and provision are well and truly heard. We know that appropriate early intervention can make a lifetime’s difference for a child and we must grasp the opportunities that will arise with this legislation.

Since asking my question, there have been ministerial changes and so there is more to do right now. I welcome the joint commissioning of services, the introduction of Education, Health and Care Plans and a local offer to parents of children with SEN, including those with SCLN. We must make sure we stay on this track and also be ambitious about the outcomes we need, for example, reduced waiting times and better access to specialist support such as education psychologists, speech and language therapists.

My question didn’t get the full answer I would have liked but from past experience it is so important to keep going and raising the issues, over and over again!”