Gareth Gates presents 2017 Shine a Light Awards


The winners of the 2017 Shine a Light Awards, a national awards scheme that celebrates innovative work and excellent practice in supporting children and young people’s communication development, have been revealed by Pearson in partnership with The Communication Trust.

The awards, which took place on Thursday (23 March) at Pearson’s headquarters in London, were hosted by singer and theatre star Gareth Gates, who has spoken publicly about living with a stutter and the impact this has had on his confidence. Twenty-nine individuals and teams across 10 award categories were recognised, as well as children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). They included:

Gregor Gilmour from Bury who won the Young Person of the Year Award. Gregor, aged 23, is a friendly, funny and generous young man who has cerebral palsy. He uses a voice output aid to communicate, which is mounted to his wheelchair and accessed by a touch screen. Since leaving full-time education, Gregor has become an incredible role model and mentor for young people across the North West forming a local communication aid user group and joining the board of 1Voice — a small national charity that provides support for children who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) aids.

Ann Shellard from Blackpool took home the Communication Champion Award. Anne has shown remarkable dedication in and around Blackpool to increasing practitioners’ knowledge and understanding of children and young people’s speech, language and communication development. Her work has ensured that every early years setting and Children’s Centre in Blackpool has an individual dedicated to ensuring best practice in communication. This has resulted in 82 per cent of Ofsted reports over the past two years highlighting speech, language and communication as a key strength.

Gareth Gates, Host of the 2016/17 Shine a Light Awards, said:

It has been a complete honour to host these awards and congratulations to all the winners and highly commended finalists. Being able to communicate with confidence is often taken for granted but for many it is an everyday struggle. I have found my stutter crippling at times but I have learnt ways to manage my difficulties with the support of others. It is heartwarming to know that these outstanding individuals, teams and settings are helping children and young people across England to develop and achieve goals that may not have been possible otherwise.

Other amazing winners included:

Parkdale Primary School in Nottingham was awarded Primary School of the Year. Parkdale was praised for their communication friendly environment including cosy corners and uninterrupted play sessions. They have worked hard to ensure that speech and language interventions are implemented to the highest standard resulting in significant progress — listening and attention increasing from 16 per cent of pupils at expected age level on entry to 86 per cent on exit, with speaking increasing from 13 per cent on entry to 87 per cent on exit.

Tor Bridge High School in Plymouth received the Secondary School/College of the Year Award. Tor Bridge has shown sheer commitment to speech, language and communication needs through the schools Inclusion Department, which provides support for pupils’ social, emotional and mental health needs. They provide continuous staff training on SLCN and have opened a mental health café for students and staff.

Both Mable Therapy and ClearCut Communication were joint winners of the SLCN Innovation Award. Mable Therapy were recognised for their evidence-based, impactful and interactive online gaming approach to meeting the SLCN of children in school as demands increase for teachers and NHS services. ClearCut Communication, developed by the County Durham Youth Offending Service (CDYOS), was praised for their communication friendly resource used with both the victim of crime and the young person who has offended. This helped lead to CDYOS being awarded the Restorative Justice Council’s Quality Mark.

Caspian Jamie from Manchester was also awarded the Pearson Outstanding Achievement Award for co-founding Twinkleboost. Over 1,300 individuals have been reached in the first 18 months by the innovative social enterprise, which equips new parents with strategies to support their child’s communication development through fun, multisensory classes for parent and child.

Chris Hall, Director of Clinical Assessment at Pearson, said:

Congratulations to the winners and highly commended finalists of the 2017 Shine a Light Awards. This is the fifth year we have run the awards and we remain blown away by the standard of applications. They give an amazing insight into the unsung work that is taking place across the country to improve the speech, language and communication skills of children and young people.

Octavia Holland, Director of The Communication Trust, said:

Congratulations to everyone who triumphed at the 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. We would like to say a huge thank you to Pearson for their long-standing support.

In total, 29 awards were presented by Gareth Gates to winners and highly commended finalists following a process where a judging panel whittled down the applications received. This panel included comedian Francesca Martinez, previous Shine a Light Award winners and key representatives from across the education and SEND sectors.

In the UK, over one million children and young people have some form of long-term and persistent speech, language and communication needs. For further information about the Shine a Light winners and highly commended finalists, visit


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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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