The team from Stoke Speaks Out, with comedian Adam Hess – in the photo on the left hand side

The Stoke Speaks Out initiative, based in Stoke-on-Trent, has won both the SLCN Innovation of the Year Award and the Pearson Outstanding Achievement Award at an awards ceremony in London for its continued commitment to developing the communication skills of children and young people. The 2018 Shine a Light Awards, run by learning company Pearson in partnership with The Communication Trust, took place on 22nd March 2018 and were hosted by stand-up comedian, actor and TV writer, Adam Hess.

The 2018 Shine a Light Awards is a national awards scheme that celebrates innovative work and excellent practice in supporting children and young people’s communication development. There were 10 awards in total, with winners and highly-commended finalists chosen by a panel of experts from the sector.

Awarded for their innovative Early Communication Screen (ECS) to improve the school readiness of children from two to five, Stoke Speaks Out has positively impacted thousands of local children. Commissioned by the Local Authority, and written by Clinical Lead Speech/Language Therapist Janet Cooper and her team of speech and language therapists from Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust (SSOTP), the ECS is designed to be used by Early Years practitioners who are trained by SLTs in a one-off ECS session, as well as through ongoing support. The screen is designed to identify early language delay and measure children’s progress over time. As a result, practitioners can plan appropriate and targeted interventions.

With almost 7,000 children screened to date, and taking just 5-10 minutes per child, this is a landmark strategy to identify Early Years speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), and is empowering practitioners not only to administer the screen, but also to interpret the results. Childminders and practitioners outside the Stoke area are showing increasing interest in the ECS, adding to more than 1,800 regional practitioners who have already trained to use it.

With around half of children in Stoke-on-Trent starting nursery with delayed language development linked to social deprivation, the potential impact of the ECS on wider social outcomes is not to be underestimated. Practitioner feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, reporting improved recognition of language delays and increased skill in selecting the appropriate intervention for young children.

Debbie Jacobs, Senior Improvement Partner with Stoke on Trent City Council and School Readiness Lead, said:

“We are so pleased that the hard work of the Stoke Speaks Out team is being recognised through this achievement. The Early Communication Screen has been instrumental in enabling early years practitioners to quickly and easily assess children’s communication and language and identify how they can support their next steps. The use of the screen has been rolled out across Stoke on Trent and is having a very positive effect on children’s readiness for school.”

Stand-up comedian and actor, Adam Hess, host of the 2018 Shine a Light Awards, said:

“The dedication of Stoke Speaks Out is outstanding. As a child, I struggled greatly with dyslexia and an immense fear of public speaking, if it wasn’t for the support I received when I was younger I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. It is fantastic to know that other children and young people are being given the support they need to learn, achieve and make friends. Stoke Speaks Out should be very proud of its awards.”

Sharon Hague, Senior Vice President, Schools, Pearson, said:

“Our warmest congratulations to Stoke Speaks Out. Through our innovative clinical assessments, Pearson is committed to supporting those working to help people overcome challenges in speech and language. For six years we have run these awards as we believe it is so important to recognise and celebrate the incredible, but often unsung, work being done across the country to change the lives of children and young people by helping them to develop their communications skills.”

Octavia Holland, Director of The Communication Trust, said:

“Congratulations to Stoke Speaks Out and everyone who triumphed at the 2018 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.”

The Shine a Light Awards have grown in popularity since their launch during the National Year of Communication in 2011 (known as the Hello campaign). To date, the awards have celebrated the work of over 120 teams and a wide range of individuals, including young people with severe and complex speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

For further information about the Shine a Light winners and highly-commended finalists, visit www.shinealightawards.co.uk and follow us on Twitter #awards_SAL