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 Mayzie Manning from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.
Mayzie, age 8, who attends Acorns Primary School and Nursery in Warrington, delighted the packed audience of politicians, parents and children with her joke:
Did you know about the guy who invented the 'knock, knock' joke?
… He won the no-bell prize!
Mayzie, who was presented with a Voice Box finalist certificate, said she was “really, really, really excited” to take part in the competition final.
When asked what she would like to be when she grows up, Mayzie replied: “I want to be a teacher who reads books out to people.”
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.”
Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port and Nelson, who attended the event, added: “I am delighted to support Mayzie Manning at Voice Box. It has shown me how critical communication skills are in determining a child’s life chances. As a politician, speaking and listening is a vital part of my life and I really value the work done by teachers and speech and language therapists to enable others, including children, to communicate more easily.”
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.”