Academies Show Blog

Park Hall Talks Secondary Communication by Dr Toby Close

Park Hall Academy has been involved in I CAN’s Secondary Talk programme for several years now. This practical development work has been a central feature of our ambition to improve the life chances of the youngsters in our care.

We are acutely aware that intervening early and creating a communication friendly environment will help students have a better chance of tackling problems, communicating well and making progress.

Our journey to improve the communication environment at Park Hall Academy, working with I CAN over the last few years, has seen this happen in practice. By focusing on all aspects of communication, including students, teachers and all adults we have seen an increase in student achievement and a reduction in student exclusion, in all its forms. This is no coincidence.

So when we heard that I CAN were promoting their work at The Academies Show in Birmingham recently, we were delighted to offer up our experience as a case study to share with other schools. As an Academy that has worked closely with I CAN, we are ideally placed to explain the benefits and pitfalls for all involved.

From the time the ‘starting bell’ rang at 9am, a steady stream of visitors flocked to the stand to hear about Secondary Talk and Talk Boost, reflecting an increasing national awareness of the centrality of this issue for students and educationists. As someone who has stood in front of large numbers of boisterous children for many years, even I wasn’t prepared for the initial onslaught at 9.01 when the doors opened like a Boxing Day sale at Harrods.

There was a phenomenal amount of interest in both Secondary Talk and Talk Boost – a intervention for language delayed children aged 4-7 – although it must be said that the multi-sensory bag of tricks to support the teaching of Talk Boost (including the monkey puppet, magic trick bag and instruments to name a few) did generate the most interest. Whilst, I wouldn’t want to generate speculation, I feared that on several occasions that bag may not make it out of the show in tact.

The job of walking case study / SLC advocate was however made considerably easier by the quality of the materials we were promoting. Whilst most stands shamelessly offered bribes ranging from, albeit delicious, cake and sweets to free bags and the obligatory pen, we were able to give away, possibly the most useful freebie ever given out at an educational show, the ‘What’s Typical Talk’ posters. These acted as a useful discussion point and signpost to the various issues that all of the Academies were grappling with.

So all in all, it was a tiring but reassuring day that reasserted our commitment to developing the speech, language and communication needs of the students at Park Hall. Not only that, I managed to walk away with 300 free pens!

Dr Toby Close, Vice Principal and Secondary Talk Coordinator at Park Hall Academy in Birmingham. Find out more about their involvement in Secondary Talk here