Since last autumn, hundreds of children have taken part in Voice Box – the joke-telling competition for schools in England, Scotland and Wales. Twenty made it through to the final at Speaker’s House, Westminster in London on 29 March. One of them was local schoolgirl Violet Castell from Sherborne in Dorset.
Violet, age 11, who attends Yewstock School in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, delighted the packed audience of politicians, parents and children with her joke:
What did one hat say to another hat?
… You stay here, I'll go on a head.
Violet, who was presented with a Voice Box finalist certificate, said: “I have been really excited about telling my joke to everyone at the Houses of Parliament.”
When asked what she would like to be when she grows up, Violet replied: “I would like to be a computer gamer and designer.”
Voice Box is an annual competition, organised by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and partnered by The Communication Trust. It aims to remind people that there are children in every classroom who need support to help them speak and understand what is being said to them.
Nearly 20% of the population may experience communication difficulties at some point in their lives.
Seven per cent of children aged about five years have specific speech and language impairment and a further 1.8% have speech, language and communication needs linked to other conditions, such as learning disability, cerebral palsy, and autism spectrum disorders.
John Bercow, Speaker of The House of Commons, said: “I am delighted to be able to host this wonderful event for the third year running. It is extremely important that children with speech, language and communication needs receive the support they require to reach their potential.”
Simon Hoare, MP for North Dorset, who attended the event, added: “I am very pleased to support Violet from Yewstock School at Voice Box. The event has demonstrated how communication skills help children to have the best start in life. Public speaking is a part of my daily life and as such I fully appreciate the work teachers and speech and language therapists do to help children to communicate as well as possible.
“As someone who needed a speech therapist as a child, I remain hugely grateful for all they did for me.”
RCSLT Chief Executive Officer Kamini Gadhok MBE said: “Speech, language and communication difficulties are the most common type of special education need in 4 – 11 year-old children. However, with the right help and support, children can improve their social skills, peer relationships and self-confidence, and access education which is vital to improving their life chances.”