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The Elizabeth Foundation | Helping preschool deaf children and babies learn to listen and talk   The Elizabeth Foundation - Helping preschool deaf children and babies learn to listen and talk

Our history

Elizabeth Metherell - inspiration for the creation of The Elizabeth Foundation for deaf childrenThe Elizabeth Foundation was founded in 1981 by Shirley and David Metherell, whose daughter, Elizabeth (photo - right), was diagnosed as profoundly deaf when she was 22 months old. In response to a lack of local support for Elizabeth, and inspired by the John Tracey Clinic in Los Angeles,

Shirley and David set up and developed The Elizabeth Foundation to support other parents of newly diagnosed children with hearing loss.

The Elizabeth Foundation quickly grew and developed a unique working partnership with the Audiology Team of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust.

Today we remain the UKs single largest provider of early intervention, educational and support services for pre-school children and babies with varying degrees of hearing loss.

Key moments in our history

1979 - Shirley and David Metherell celebrate the birth of their daughter Elizabeth. By the time Elizabeth was 8 months old, her parents have concerns about her hearing. However, it takes until she is 22 months old (1981) for Elizabeth to be officially diagnosed as profoundly deaf.

1981 - Following Elizabeth's diagnosis, her parents take their daughter to Los Angeles, USA to visit the world famous John Tracy Clinic for young children with learing loss. photo of preschool deaf children at The Elizabeth Foundation in the 1980s

Inspired by the John Tracy Clinic's remarkable services and driven by the need to help other parents of newly diagnosed deaf children, on their return Shirley and David set up The Elizabeth Foundation.

Four other deaf babies and their parents began to meet regularly in the Metherell's home (see photo - right), helped by a local volunteer Teacher of the Deaf. Within just seven months, the new organisation gained full charitable status.

You can read more about the first few years of Elizabeth's story as told by her mother Shirley.The first children helped by The Elizabeth Foundation in the 1980s

1982 - We are joined by a specialist teacher of the deaf from The John Tracy Clinic, with classes now held in temporary accommodation (nicknamed 'The Hut') in the grounds of Shirley's local primary school.

1984 - The charity secures a 99-year lease on a plot of land near Portsmouth's main hospital, and plans are drawn up for a purpose-built family centre. Shirley and David Metherell start a major fundraising and public relations drive, and started building with the first major grant from The Tudor Trust.

1986 - The Elizabeth Foundation launches its National Correspondence and Advisory Course (now called our Home Learning Programme) for parents of preschool deaf children unable to attend regular sessions at the Hampshire Family Centre.HRH The Princess Royal offocially opening the Elizabeth Family Centre in Hampshire in 1989

1987 - Shirley receivs the Award of the Year from the Professional Association for Maternal and Child Welfare

1989 - HRH The Princess Royal officially opens our new purpose-built Family Centre in Cosham, Portsmouth (photo - right). This new building was self-built by the five fathers of the original Elizabeth Foundation children, with finances raised from the local community and grantmaking trusts.

1994 - After three years of further fundraising effort, The Elizabeth Foundation completes and opens its Newborn Hearing Screening and Paediatric Test Centre (photo - right). The first of its kind in the country - operated jointly with the local Portsmouth Hopsitals NHS Trust, The Elizabeth Foundation's Test Centre

In the same year, The University of Portsmouth recognises Shirley Metherell's work with deaf children and their parents by awarding her an honorary Master of Education degree.

1998 - The Elizabeth Foundation enjoys a second visit by HRH The Princess Royal. By this time, The Elizabeth Foundation has gained national recognition for its innovative work across the UK.

2005 - With 70 children attending our family centres weekly, The Elizabeth Foundation becomes the largest single provider of education services for preschool deaf children in the UK. Shirely Metherell receiving a Civic Award form the City of POrtsmouth in 2007

2006 - The Elizabeth Foundation celebrates its 25th Anniversary of helping deaf children and babies learn to listen and talk.

2007 - The City of Portsmouth honours Shirley Metherell's work for deaf children and babies by presenting her with a Civic Award - presented by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth (photo - right).

2008 - We launch our Raise the Roof Appeal to enlarge and enhance to our Hampshire Family Centre.

2011 - We celebrate our 30th Anniversary with the successful completion of our Raise the Roof building work - with enlarged facilities at our Hampshire Family Centre including a new nursery unit. funded by our Appeal.

2013 - We remain the largest single provider of education services for preschool deaf children in the UK. Many other families across the country and around the world continue to benefit from our Home Learning Programme.

In April 2013, Shirley Metherell retired and Dr Sue Campbell joined as the organisation's Chief Executive.

Shirley and David Metherell2014 - Our founders Shirley and David Metherell are both made Members of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to children with hearing loss and their families.

In February 2014, we started work to exend our buildings so we can provide an enhanced range of serivces in the future.

2015 - Julie Hughes, formerly the charity's Director of Children and Family Services, is selected by the Board of Trustees as the new Chief Executive to replace Sue Campbell, who resigned for family reasons.

To find out more about our historyThe Elizabeth FOundation's family centre in Hampshire

If you would like to read more about our history, you can download our 30th, 25th and 20th anniversary newsletters:


© The Elizabeth Foundation
Registered Charity No: 293835
Company Registration No: 01960980
A company registered in England and Wales
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Ofsted Outstanding - The Elizabeth Foundation for deaf children and babies
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The Elizabeth Foundation for deaf children and babies - reegistered with the Fundraising Regulator