Monday, 14 May 2012

Talking is just the ticket

By Eve Wagg, Programme Manager for Talk of the Town
Girls at the Museum of Science and Industry

This weekend I went to a farm with my nephew Tom and I’m not sure who had more fun - me or him. We fed the pigs, learnt that goats are great swimmers (who knew?), and had a yummy cream tea at the local cafe. It got me thinking that we all love a trip or day out, whatever our age. 

A very similar experience happened at the Trust last week, when we were fortunate enough to be able to support a primary school in Wythenshawe to take children, joined by a parent, to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Not only was this the first time some of the children had gone to a museum but it was also the first time that parents were invited to join a school trip.

There was a real buzz across the day from the parents, children and staff. Parents were given a booklet that encouraged lots of interaction as children looked at exhibits. All the parents commented on the fun they had with their children and the staff were so delighted with the day that they are already planning another for next year.

This trip was funded by a much larger project called Talk of the Town which is a community led approach to supporting speech, language and communication in children from 0-19. It’s currently being piloted in a small part of Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, with the support of the local community.  

As part of the project we’re looking at providing lots of opportunities for parents to engage in their child’s speech and language development as we know this is really important if they are to become confident communicators. 

We’re running lots of parent activities including volunteer-led projects offering training for parents and the local children’s centres are running increasingly popular ‘Stay and Play’ sessions and setting up new activities for families including ‘Babbling Babies’ sessions. We’re also working closely with the local museum teams to offer trips like last week’s. 

Museums offer a lot to talk about as there are things you see that you don’t come across every day. They are also usually free and offer free activity packs for children. But museums aren’t the only activities that offer great ways to support communication – simple things like putting a few minutes aside every day for talking together with no background noise; exploring new words as you come across them and praising good communication can all help. Lots more opportunities for encouraging conversation happen on outings and some ideas can be found in our Summer Talk pack here (

I don’t know about you but I’m already planning my next trip. I’m thinking about the new local park as I’m sure Tom will love feeding the ducks and I may just be able to have a go on the swings... 

To find out more about Talk of the Town, click here (   

Friday, 11 May 2012

Time to say farewell, but not goodbye

Anita Kerwin-Nye, outgoing director
It’s been a fantastic five years as Director of The Communication Trust. To say I am remarkably proud of the organisation and all those involved in our work is an understatement. 

We have been on an incredible journey which culminated in the Hello campaign (national year of communication) last year that reached 70% of UK adults (Metrika 2012) and disseminated 400,000 free resources to families and professionals

We have grown from a small consortium of just a few members to a strong 48-member consortium with vast skills and experience in the field of children’s speech, language and communication.

When I first came to the speech and language sector, parents were battling a system where their child’s speech, language and communication needs were regularly being misunderstood, misinterpreted and in the worst cases, just missed altogether. Now, thanks to our work and that of our partners, the situation is improved, although we still have a long way to go.

We have had a great number of supporters along the way. Not least I CAN, Afasic and BT who realised five years ago, in the wake of the Bercow Review, that no single organisation could reach the children’s workforce effectively. This led to the birth of the Trust and at its core is collaborating with others.

This served us well when we ran the Hello campaign in partnership with Jean Gross, formerly the Government’s Communication Champion for children, and we have extended our networks even further.

To all those people who has supported us since the Trust’s inception or new supporters that joined us through the national year of communication, I pass on my sincere thanks for all you have done – big or small.

As we put the finishing touches to The Communication Trust’s 5-years on Impact Report and Hello evaluation report, it feels like the right time for me to move on.

A strong strategy has been put in place for the next five years and this will be taken forward by the Trust’s very capable staff team. I am sure, like me, you will be keenly keeping an eye on the Trust as it continues to grow and take the issue of speech and language to more and more people.

In the coming months, the Trust will be launching a campaign to place communication at the heart of schools and disseminating best practice in the field of speech and language to the widest possible audience.

Exciting times ahead!

Because communication is everybody’s business, I will be taking it with me into my next ventures and continue championing the cause. So it’s not really goodbye from me, but farewell.

To keep in touch with Anita, you can follow her on Twitter here

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Working together

By Faith Cross, Attachment, Language and Communication Professional, Trainer for The Communication Trust

Faith Cross

I have trained Youth Offending Team staff in Hidden Communication Difficulties, across the country for over a year now. I have learned a great deal about how they support vulnerable children and young people. I have come to the conclusion that many YOT staffs have more knowledge, skills and strategies for working with children/young people with Hidden Communication Needs than some teaching staff in High Schools. This is not to discredit staff in schools - not enough support and training is provided to help teachers recognise the complex needs of some children and young people. More training and information regarding diverse and complex needs plus, understanding the implications of behaviours that are exhibited, will ensure some young people avoid a route in to the Youth Justice system. With shared knowledge of SLCN and Hidden Communication Needs, school staff/other agencies can prevent some pupils from becoming excluded, thereby increasing the opportunities for accessing vital services to support assessment, and provide appropriate interventions. Many youngsters either opt out or are excluded from the education system due to their “behaviour”. Behaviour is seen, but often not understood.

The Communication Trust training for Youth Offending Teams is good and needs to continue, but we need some joined up thinking. Training needs to be provided to a wider group eg Magistrates, the Police, plus all services working with Children, Young People and Families. We all need to be skilled, knowledgeable and consistent in our approach. When key messages are consistently given by Youth Workers, Health Practitioners, the Police, Court Officials, Teaching Staff etc - we can achieve a united front for the benefit of Children and Young People.

One practical solution I will promote is that Sentence Trouble training materials could be included in SENCO training. Liaison between SENCOs and their local YOT/Secure Children’s Estate is highly desirable to support young people’s transition back in to Education. High School staff and Key Stage 2 staff would benefit from viewing the film but also undertaking Day 1 of the YOT training (or the equivalent). There are numerous excellent resources and materials available to support SLCN – the YOT training materials provide another perspective.

I firmly believe that when working with children and young people, we need to support the development of their language and communication skills.

Contact Dave Mahon to give your support.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Streamlining our social media to offer better service

By Lynne Milford, Press Officer

The evaluation of Hello, the national year of communication, is almost complete and the campaign is practically wound up. We’ve already merged our websites to make sure all the information is contained in one easy-to-find place. All that remains is to streamline our social media.

At present we have a dedicated Facebook page and a Twitter feed for Hello and we’re delighted with the number of people who chose to follow the campaign through these channels. But now we plan to close these down and put out all our information through The Communication Trust’s own pages.

Rest assured all our latest news and information will continue to be sent out through our two remaining social media sites. There will also be more detailed articles posted on our blog so pop along and check out the content already on there. You can also choose to subscribe to the blog so you receive an email every time we post if you feel the content will be relevant to you. Click on the black box on the right hand side of the screen. The blog reflects the work of The Communication Trust as a whole, as well as other relevant stories in the news.

We hope you choose to continue following the Trust and keeping up with all our work and resources. If you would like to keep following us, please ‘like’ or ‘follow’ our pages at these links:



The Hello Facebook and Twitter pages will be closed on Friday June 1st, so you have plenty of time to find our other pages and keep up with news and events from the Trust.

We’re always keen to hear your feedback and we want to make these pages as user friendly as we possibly can, so please contact Press Officer Lynne Milford on if you have any comments.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Star Thrower - Guest slot, Diz Minnitt, Operational Manager, Milton Keynes Youth Offending Team

“A man was walking along the beach when he saw a girl picking up starfish and carefully throwing them into the sea. He called to her ‘Why are you throwing starfish into the sea?’. The girl paused and said ‘The tide is going out; if I don't throw them in they'll die.’ The man said ‘But there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!’

The girl listened politely, bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, beyond the breaking waves. "It made a difference for that one!"

David felt like a permanent fixture in Court. By December 2010 he had been sentenced 13 times for 38 offences including burglary.

He had a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder and struggled in or truanted from his numerous schools despite a Statement of SEN. He had not had a speech and language therapy assessment so in 2009 the Youth Offending Team (YOT) arranged one. It identified David’s ‘severe language and comprehension difficulties’, particularly his inability to understand and use verbal information (essential for consequential thinking skills) which was at the level of a six year old.

Everything changed, the YOT worked differently with David and he made progress. The SLT Assessment was shared with his college, support was put in place, and David started and stayed on a motor mechanics course. His offending reduced so by Spring 2011 he had completed all his Court Orders.

However, David still had to appear in a Crown Court Trial for a burglary offence he had committed when he was fifteen years old. The defence solicitor was granted the use of an Intermediary to support David in the Trial.

David was found guilty and the Judge directed that the Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) should address a custodial sentence of between 18 months and 4 years as the ‘only option’. However, the PSR included full details of the SLT Assessment and proposed to the Court a community sentence. This was the lynchpin in determining David’s immediate future.
David was sentenced to a community sentence of an 18-month Youth Rehabilitation Order allowing the effective work with him to continue, and he has fully complied. With the exception of a minor offence of possession of cannabis for which he received a Conditional Discharge David has not offended since December 2010.

The Speech and Language Assessment provided a turning point. David’s complex needs were recognised and better understood and the work to help him change his behaviour became effective. This change of approach by the YOT and education staff helped him to make the important move away from a pattern of persistent reoffending with its associated cost to the community and impact on victims, into training with the real potential for employment and a more positive offence-free future. Whilst locking David up would have been a defensible option given his history of offending, I am in little doubt, and the statistics bear this out, that the longer term financial cost and human cost to future victims would have far outweighed any short term gains.

It made a difference for that one.

Diz Minnitt is Operational Manager Milton Keynes Youth Offending Team (YOT)
Association of YOT Managers Speech and Language Lead