Looking back at 2011: thoughts on the National Year from Virginia Beardshaw

What a fantastic year 2011 has been for speech, language and communication. If you’d told me at the start of this National Year that we would have proposals to integrate oral language across our curriculum at every age and stage, as recommended in this week’s Expert Panel report on the National Curriculum, an Early Years Foundation Stage which places language and communication at its heart and an Ofsted framework that stresses the importance of language in the classroom, I would have said you were crazy and living in a fantasy world! But in fact, we leave 2011 with a really exciting set of proposals for the National Curriculum (for children aged 5-18), in early years education and with communication embedded in the new Ofsted framework.

There is still a lot more work to be done to bring all these exciting developments to a successful fruition that really makes a difference for children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and their families. The task ahead for 2012 for us, and our colleagues in the sector, is to help strengthen these proposals and ensure they translate in reality, to help and inform those in the children’s workforce in 2012 and beyond. We can ensure we will be most effective by working together as a strong coalition through The Communication Trust.

The success shown in these important policy developments show the strength of working together with The Communication Trust, whose strong team of core staff have been fantastic in moving the issue forward. Enormous thanks and credit must go to Jean Gross, the Communication Champion, who has worked tirelessly throughout 2011 across Government and with local services to help co-ordinate and build on initiatives to improve services for children and young people with SLCN.

The national year was celebrated at an event last week at BT Tower, hosted by The Communication Trust to bring together the groups involved in Hello and reflect on the wonderful work we have done together. It has been a really busy year for I CAN: the Talking Point website was re-launched for the national year; we coordinated a Guinness World Record for our Chatterbox Challenge in March; the Communication Triathlon was launched in April; our schools took part in No Pens Day Wednesday in September; we produced new resources and posters to support parents and practitioners, including the SLI handbook with The Communication Trust and Afasic and we coordinated the monthly themes of the national year throughout our work.  The event was also a chance to thank Jean Gross for her outstanding work. As we looked out at the sunny sky across London, we felt that we were looking towards a brighter future, as well as celebrating the past year’s achievements.

We never could have predicted at the start of the national year how successful 2011 would prove to be. This success has only been possible thanks to the work of a number of committed and well-informed organisations across the communication sector and the outstanding leadership from Jean Gross.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at I CAN.