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By Able Magazine Editor, Tom Jamison

The Shine A Light Awards, held in London yesterday, celebrate the extraordinary work of people working in education and with young people, with a focus on communication. The host for the afternoon, comedian, David Baddiel (Fantasy Football and Baddiel & Skinner Unplanned) opened the event in an unexpected manner: with a ‘Powerpoint presentation’ based around the concept of how communication is vital to getting along in life – especially if you happen to be a comedian.

Educational assessment and testing organisation, Pearson, hosted the awards at their Strand headquarters with The Communication Trust, a coalition of over 50 not-for-profit organisations that work together to support everyone who works with children and young people in England to support their speech, language and communication (SCLN). Their work focuses on supporting all children and young people to communicate to the best of their ability.

Director of The Communication Trust, Anne Fox, told me that: “I think communication is overlooked as a skill. I think everybody takes it for granted and that’s a big challenge for us. Because we think it’s something that develops naturally we don’t know that it has to be developed and we don’t know what it should look like. It’s one of those things – what does good look like? If you don’t know what good looks like then you don’t see that it’s not there and that’s why SCLN gets overlooked.”


I also caught up with last year’s Shine A Light Communication Champion, Shane Dangar (22), who is dyslexic. He’s had a busy year since winning his award in 2014 and is now employed by Somerset County Council as a Young Persons’ Champion as part of the Engagement and Participation Team (part of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Performance Training).  He told me how the award had helped him saying:  “It’s done lots of things for me. The role itself has given me confidence in myself”

I also asked Shane if he felt the views of younger people were considered enough and what he’s trying to do in his role. “Let’s look at it this way: young people are dealt with by services for young people and young people aren’t really consulted to get their views about the nature of the services they need” adding:  “So that’s what I’m helping with in Somerset.

It’s my job to sit on as many panels as I can to represent the views and opinions of young people with special educational needs and disabilities, so I think this award will give me more credibility in that field as well as being a young person that’s got over lots of SEN challenges.

I’ve managed to get myself into a position where I’m surrounded by people that understand my needs. They go above and beyond supporting me to overcome my needs and Access To Work is helping to support me with assistive technology.

I’m living proof that having SEN does not prevent you from achieving!”

Interestingly, Shane had what might be considered a controversial opinion on how best to help young people, saying: “A lot of young people, for whatever reason, are over-supported and disempowered by the support that they receive. If you aren’t allowed to do things like fail, you’ll never learn about making decisions and responsibility. A lot of support these days strips young people with SEN of the ability to learn those skills. They need support but through the way it’s provided they often don’t get to learn lots of those fundamental life skills. The way I’d phrase it is that we have very much a ‘Do for’ culture as opposed to a ‘Support to’ culture.”

Able Magazine would like to congratulate all of the winners and nominees and wish them every success in their ongoing efforts in this important work.