Since September 2015, hundreds of schoolchildren across Wales, Scotland and England have taken part in the joke-telling competition, Voice Box. Twenty made it through to the final at Speaker’s House, Westminster in London on 2 March. One of them was local schoolboy Alex Allen from Llanharan, Rhondda.
Alex, age 8, who attends Llwyncrwn Primary School in Llanharan, delighted the packed audience of politicians, parents and children with his joke:
What wobbles and juggles in the sky? A jellycopter.
Alex, who was presented with a certificate, said: “I tell jokes at home with daddy and my brother.”
Alex did not tell his mum he had entered the competition at school. He added: “I just came home and said: ‘I did it!’”
Voice Box is an annual competition, organised by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists 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.
7% 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.
Huw Irranca-Davies, MP for Ogmore, who attended the event, said: “I am delighted to support Alex Allen 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.”
John Bercow, Speaker of The House of Commons, said: “I am delighted to be able to host this wonderful event for the second year running. It is extremely important that children with speech, language and communication needs receive the support they require to reach their potential.”
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 that is vital to improving their life chances.”