Virginia Beardshaw I CAN CEO Eds

I CAN’s Christmas round up from our CEO, Virginia Beardshaw

As 2014 draws to a close, we have a hugely successful year for I CAN to reflect on. The year started with a Gala Concert at St. James’s Palace to celebrate I CAN’s 125th Anniversary. This prestigious event was made possible by the kind support of Her Majesty The Queen who has been a patron of I CAN throughout her reign, and Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall who hosted the event. The centrepiece of the Gala was a concert by the London Chamber Orchestra, with a special appearance by I CAN’s Meath School Choir, whose performance didn’t leave a dry eye in the house.

Our annual Chatterbox Challenge event was as popular as always with almost 4,000 early years settings registering for the event, developing the early language skills of over 158,000 children. Entertainment One, who supported the Challenge for the preceding two years with the early years character Humf, continued our charity partnership and this year’s Challenge is supported by Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom.

The annual Shine a Light Awards were a celebration of the fantastic work happening to support speech, language and communication across the country. I CAN was well represented in the winning and highly commended categories for a number of our programmes and our young people. Read more about our winners.

I CAN’s Dawn House School received an accolade with an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted Report. The Ofsted inspection found Dawn House School to be ‘Outstanding’ in every area of its provision with pupils at the school achieving exceptionally well and all pupils making outstanding progress whatever their individual needs or disabilities. We were all thrilled that the staff and students’ hard work to create a positive school environment were recognised by inspectors. The school pupils also impressed judges at the national NASUWT ‘Arts and Minds’ competition where their artwork entitled ‘What’s the Problem?’ was chosen by TV personality Gok Wan as the overall competition winner from schools across the country.

Our Early Language Development Programme was due to end in March 2014 but in recognition of its success and having exceeded our targets, the Department for Education funded the programme for an additional year. To date we have reached over 15000 practitioners to effectively support young children’s communication development as well as 115,000 parents and carers to support their child’s language development.

We were thrilled to be chosen for the second year running to be at BGC Charity Day. This annual event honours colleagues who lost their lives in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre. On the day all profits are donated to charity. We were represented this year by the renowned journalist and newsreader, Jon Snow, and Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills. We were delighted that pupils from Meath School also joined us on the day.

Central to the work that we do is to ensure that all children can achieve and learn at school. We were founding members this year of a coalition with an ambitious goal: to get all children reading well by age 11 by 2025. An interim goal of ensuring all children have a good level of early language by age 5 by 2020 really emphasises language as crucial to getting children reading and provided a powerful platform for our work. The campaign, Read On. Get On. with Save the Children, the National Literacy Trust and other key organisations is galvanising the nation to get behind this shared mission.

We also work to ensure that parents and practitioners have information and resources needed to support children and young people’s communication development. We launched Talking Strategies for Key Stage 2 teachers and school staff this year,which offers strategies to develop all children’s communication across different subject areas. Additionally, our I CAN Help Enquiry Service has directly supported 791 parents and practitioners. We presented evidence of our programmes at the bi-annual Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) conference, Mind the Gap on a number of I CAN programmes and projects including: the London Education Inclusion Project; the Early Language Development Programme (ELDP); A Chance to Talk; a literacy project at Dawn House School; and Secondary Talk. Our flagship language intervention, Talk Boost, celebrated its second anniversary this year and two years on, children are still making the same levels of progress in their communication as those who took part in the initial pilot. Talk Boost is now running in 1,763 schools and has reached 22,980 children.

Raising Your Game, a five year partnership project with Mencap, I CAN and Nacro, came to an end in October. Our programme Talk about Talk was a key outcome of the project, with a unique combination of training and mentoring for young people which also gives young people a voice to be actively involved in training a range of organisations about their difficulties. Our evaluation found that the programme made a statistically significant difference to young people’s communication and up to 98% of participants from organisations trained agreed that they would apply the knowledge gained through Talk about Talk training to their work environment. We have funding to work with five organisations over the next few months to further embed Talk about Talk.

Last month we held a spectacular Gala concert with Katherine Jenkins at the Savoy with a special performance from the hugely talented Meath School Choir. Broadcaster John Inverdale was the gala’s Master of Ceremonies and in addition to Katherine Jenkins’s performance, the evening ended with an auction with lots donated by individuals including David Yarrow and Rod Stewart. Olly Bates, a Meath School parent also gave a powerful speech about how I CAN’s school helped his son to say ‘Daddy’ for the first time. Through the generosity of event sponsors and the auction on the evening, we raised over £200,000! Thank you to everyone who helped us reach this fantastic goal.

It has been a wonderful year for I CAN, the children and families and early years staff and teachers we work with. Thank you to every one of you for your support, in all capacities over the year. We look forward to another successful year in 2015.