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Communication Champion Hubs

A network of Early Years practitioners, trained to become local experts in early speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and leaders of communication “centres of excellence” that provide professional support to colleagues across the Norwich Opportunity Area.


Childminders, Head Teachers / School Leaders, Local Authorities, School Teachers, Settings & Early Years Practitioners, Trusts

Aimed at

Early Years Foundation Stage, KS1


Early Years, Language Development, Literacy, Raising Attainment, Workforce: Recruitment, Retention and Development


Whole School

Why was the project needed?

Following the Communication Champions Training, the Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA) had a large group of passionate and knowledgeable Early Years practitioners who had no fixed way of networking or sharing their learning with one another. As a result, the NOA started running half termly network meetings, which grew in attendance as more cohorts of communication champions were trained. Our problem was then one of sustainability; Who would take over the running of these network meetings once the NOA project was over? Who would carry on championing the cause for better speech and language practice and provision? From this discussion, the Communication Champion Hubs project was born.

What happened and what was the impact?

The NOA created 5 Communication Hubs that would act as ‘centres of excellence’ around SLCN. Each school/setting would develop its own areas of expertise and as a result, they would lead in sharing knowledge and best practice around SLCN with other Early Years professionals in the NOA and beyond. The Communication Hubs would also run half-termly network meetings for communication champions and use some of their funding to support workforce training across the city.  

The NOA shared an application form with all schools and settings who had sent a practitioner onto the Communication Champion Training. This outlined the Opportunity Area’s vision for the Communication Hubs and it listed all their associated responsibilities, such as the requirement to continue to grow the Communication Champion Network for example, and run half termly network meetings.  

It also detailed the funding that would be given to a Communication Hub should they be successful, this was £10,000 per Hub, and it asked potential applicants to outline how they would use this money and what outcomes they would hope to achieve. From here, schools and settings were invited to apply for this role, either on their own or in partnership with another school or setting. 

Once all applications had been received, a panel met to review them anonymously. The strengths and weaknesses of each application were discussed and by the end of this process, four Communication Hubs had been chosen. This comprised of one preschool setting, two schools working independently and two schools working together in partnership. Geographically, these four hubs covered each of the four areas of Norwich – north, south, east and west. 

The Norwich Opportunity Area worked with each of the new Hub Leads to finalise their Communication Hub plan and talk through any areas of weakness in their application. The existing Communication Champions Network that had been meeting for the whole Opportunity Area and led network meetings once every half term, was then split up so that all communication champions were reassigned to their local Communication Hub. Following this, funding was distributed and each of the four Communication Hubs took over the running of their own network meetings. 

For the first year, all hub leads were actively supported by the NOA to plan and chair their meetings, collate and manage their distribution lists, build their agendas, and take meeting minutes. Thereafter, the Communication Hub leads took over the full running of these meetings with great success, signifying that the network meetings were now a fully sustainable part of this project. 

In the latter half of 2019, conversations at a strategic level with project stakeholders and partners suggested that there was more to do to reach children earlier with speech and language needs. Following the First 1001 Days report and associated research, a spotlight was shone on the 0-2-year age phase and as a result, the NOA decided to set up a specific 0-2 Communication Hub to address what is happening around communication and language at the earliest stages of a child’s life. 

The process of setting up this Hub was much the same as it had been prior; the only difference being that this Hub’s remit and network meetings would be solely for professionals working with, or with an interest in, 0-2-year-old development. Following an application process, two local nurseries were chosen to work in partnership on this project and from here, a 0-2 Hub Action Plan was created. At time of writing, this Hub is still in its first year of running and is currently being supported by the NOA team but already the distribution list for this hub has reached a total of 57 practitioners from Norwich and beyond. 

Moving forward, all five Communication Hubs are now beginning to think about how they can use some of their funding to support wider workforce development and intervention planning. Over the next 6 months, the Hubs hope to be able to offer the practitioners in their networks an array of funded training opportunities and a new Communication Champion Audit Tool. Each Hub is also concurrently working on ensuring their own settings reflect outstanding speech and language provision and practice, and they are each moving forward with their own action plans and network meeting agendas. For higher level planning and discussions, all hub leads also meet as a collective once every school term. 

We have learnt that successful Communication Hubs can be formed and supported to work together strategically, to improve the speech and language provision and practice of local schools and settings. We have also learnt that Early Years practitioners, from a multitude of education provisions, welcome new opportunities to network together, share best practice, discuss issues and receive continuing professional development (CPD) in relation to early speech, language and communication development. 

What did and didn't work?

To run a successful Communication Hub, alongside passion and dedication, time and capacity are essential. Where this has not been given to a Hub by their senior leadership team, or where it has not been possible due to competing priorities (e.g., Covid-19 fall out/daily work stressors), the knock-on effects of poor network meeting attendance and slow progress against the Hubs original targets, has been seen. 

In other cases, network meeting attendance has varied due to either, the attendees’ lack of time and capacity to engage; meeting days/times that don’t work for the majority; poor organisation and planning; or where geographically, hubs have been slightly too close together meaning that one Hub is thriving whilst the other is not. 

We have also witnessed varying levels of success with moving the network meetings online as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst in most cases, online meetings have proven successful and allowed practitioners from wider Norfolk to attend the meetings when they normally wouldn’t, it is also evident that in some Communication Hubs, practitioners miss meeting face to face to face and networking socially altogether. 

At present, each individual Hub is weighing up the pros and cons of each approach, before deciding how they’d like to run their meetings in the future.

How did you measure success?

To date, the success of this project has been measured by two key indicators: 

  1. The attendance at Communication Hub Network Meetings: The number of communication champions and other professionals attending the network meetings has remained steady or increased for most Communication Hubs since their launch. Where issues with attendance have occurred, the hub leads and NOA have worked together to find a solution to the problem.
  2. Progress against action plans: Although as a result of Covid-19, some agreed actions have been paused or adapted, progress against each Hub’s action plans continues to remain steady. End of year reports and termly Hub Leads Meetings, have served as helpful check-in points to assess progress and impact to date.


Ingredients For Success

Dedicated and passionate schools and settings who have the time and capacity to run Communication Hubs that are committed to supporting system-wide change, sharing best practice and improving Early Years speech, language and communication development in their own settings and in others.

Is the Project Complete or Ongoing

The Communication Champions Hub project has been completed but as a result of the project 5 Communication Hubs now exist.

How is the Project Sustainable

At present, three out of the five the Communication Hubs are running their network meetings independently at low or very little cost. Our fourth Communication Hub is currently adapting their action plan to focus on a new area of need and our fifth Communication Hub is still in its first year and therefore receiving support from the NOA. As a result, the network meetings of each Communication Hub either are, or soon will be, sustainable.  

Other elements of the Communication Hub plan that rely on funding, for example, their Hub training offer or individual mini projects, may not be sustainable once project funding ends. Therefore, our plan is to teach and encourage the Communication Hubs to bid for external pots of money in the future.

What are the Long Term Impacts

We hope that by creating sustainable Communication Hubs they will continue to deliver all their positive work, improving the speech and language provision and practice of local schools and settings, and grow and evolve independently over time.

Estimated Costs

The project needed a significant investment from the Opportunity Area: £50,000 (£10,000 per Communication Hub).

It is this commitment to our professional community from staff in schools, settings and agencies that will support us to develop our network further in the future, learning from expert speakers, and from each other, as practitioners share best practice from their settings and the personal skills they have acquired through direct work with children and families. 

Stuart Allen, Head Teacher, Mile Cross Primary School and North Norwich Communication Champion Hub Lead 

The Communication Champion Project continues to have a huge impact on practice and provision in Norwich (and beyond) and I feel quite privileged to be part of this, especially to be leading in one of the Communication Hubs. There is very much a sense that we’re building something quite new to meet a real local need and to add value. There are so many aspects to this!  

Within school, developing our own provision to be an exemplar of good practice whether this is our classroom environments, our practitioner knowledge and skills or our partnerships with parents and agencies. It’s supported us to focus more closely on what we do and to identify areas for development…I think of our Hub as a facilitator in a lot of respects; bringing together a range of professionals and practitioners who all have an interest in developing speech, language and communication, working to develop a joined-up approach; it’s very much about partnerships, collaboration and information-sharing.  

Eileen Maceachern, Senco, Mile Cross Primary School and North Norwich Communication Champion Hub Lead 

Area Most Impacted

Improving Attainment


Language & Communication

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Being a Communication Champion Hub School- Mile Cross Primary School

The NOA Communication Champions project provided the opportunity, through training, for Early Years practitioners to develop their knowledge, skills and understanding in speech, language, and communication.

Being an Early Years Communication Hub - Chestnut Nursery & Little Squirrels

We wanted to develop a hub of Early Years professionals to support children's early language development. The focus was to target the 0-2 year group.

The Communication Hub - North Norwich

Eileen Maceachern, SENCO at Mile Cross Primary School and North Norwich Communication Champions Hub Lead talks about the development of the North Norwich Communication Hub.

Next steps to do something similar yourself

These are a list of Big Idea resources that you can use to implement in your setting:

Watch our webinar to see how the North Norwich Hub and practitioner network was developed:

View and download the Communication Hubs promotional flyer to learn more about the Hubs offer and how to sign up:

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Preparing for Literacy here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Improving Literacy in KS1 here

Champions and contacts


Hub Contact Details

Norwich Opportunity Area Team
The North Norwich (Communication Hub (Eileen Maceachern)

Mile Cross Primary School, Brasier Road

Norwich, Norfolk


The North Norwich (Communication Hub (Catherine Bryan)

Catton Grove Primary School, Weston Road

Norwich, Norfolk


The 0-2 Communication (Yvonne Hamilton)

Chestnut Nursery,Norwich Research Park, Colney Lane

Norwich, Norfolk


The 0-2 Communication Hub (Suzie Squirrel-Hughes)

Little Squirrels Play Forest, Castle Mall, 100 Lion & Castle Yard

Norwich, Norfolk


Lakenham Primary Communication Hub (Jess Bell and Tracey Hawthorne)

Lakenham Primary School, City Road

Norwich, Norfolk


Lionwood Infant School Communication Hub (Sam Thorpe and Faye Herron)

Lionwood Infant and Nursery School, Telegraph Lane East

Norwich, Norfolk


Peapod Pre-School Communication Hub (Fran O'Neill and Sarah Riley)

Peapod Pre-School, Milford Road

Norwich, Norfolk


Norwich Opportunity Area Team
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