When Wasim started SHINE in January last year, “he looked absolutely terrified,” says Julie Olejinik, the SHINE in Secondaries project manager at Rushcroft Foundation School in Chingford. “He just sat in the corner, he wouldn’t give you eye contact, and he wouldn’t talk to anybody.

It turned out that Wasim was a selective mute. At home he spoke only occasionally to his parents and his dog; at school he stayed completely silent. Although his grades were fine, Julie was worried that his silence would harm his progress in class, so immediately selected him for SHINE. “He’s in a new school, with new people. If he hadn’t been on SHINE he could have just slipped into the woodwork.”

Julie hoped that Wasim would find SHINE’s “really relaxed atmosphere” and small groups much less intimidating than weekday school and so help him open up. She was right. “Halfway through the year you’d get a little smile and he’d perhaps say ‘yes’ and ‘no’,” says Julie. The dam had now cracked: by the end of the year Wasim was chatting away happily and even performing in front of an audience. “He was going out of his way to hold conversations with other children,” says Julie: “He was even helping people with their classwork.” Wasim also made good progress academically and this has continued since leaving SHINE, along with his conversation. “I’ve been teaching a long time,” Julie says, “and Wasim’s transformation is something that really will stay with me.